European Shares Inch Higher On Growth Optimism

European stocks rose on Thursday to hover near record highs after the Federal Reserve minutes from the March meeting indicated that officials were united on the need to see more progress on the recovery before scaling back their massive bond-buying program.

The day’s economic data also supported hopes for a swift economic recovery from the pandemic.

Data from Destatis revealed that German factory orders growth accelerated in February driven by domestic demand.

Factory orders grew 1.2 percent month-on-month in February, faster than the 0.8 percent increase in January and matching economists’ expectations.

On a yearly basis, growth in industrial orders improved notably to 5.6 percent from 1.4 percent a month ago.

The U.K. construction sector grew at the fastest pace since 2014 in March, underpinned by strong rises in house building, commercial work and civil engineering, survey data from IHS Markit showed.

The corresponding index rose to 61.7 from 53.3 in February. This was the fastest expansion since September 2014.

The pan European Stoxx 600 rose 0.4 percent to 436 after declining 0.2 percent in the previous session. The German DAX was marginally higher, while France’s CAC 40 index gained half a percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent.

Holland-based technology investor Prosus NV gained 0.7 percent after completing a sale of a parcel of Tencent shares.

Norwegian telecom company Telenor ASA rose 0.8 percent. The company and Axiata Group are in advanced discussions regarding a deal to merge their Malaysian mobile operations Digi and Celcom.

Swiss engineering company ABB advanced 1.6 percent after launching a new share buyback program.

Volvo Group shares rose 1.8 percent while those of SSAB fell 0.8 percent after they have signed a collaboration agreement on research, development, serial production and commercialization of vehicles to be made of fossil-free steel.

Gerresheimer dropped 1.6 percent despite reporting a rise in Q1 profit and confirming 2021 outlook.

Aareal Bank declined 1.4 percent after the company rejected the demand by Petrus Advisers Ltd for a partial replacement of Supervisory Board members.

AstraZeneca shares were up 1.7 percent despite reports that several European countries are considering to restrict the use of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine in younger people.

Johnson Matthey shares rallied 3.3 percent. The chemicals company said it expects group operating performance for 2020/21 to be around the top end of market expectations.

Shares of online retailer ASOS fell 2.4 percent. The company has more than tripled first-half profits to a record £106m and raised full-year expectations.

Mining giant Anglo American added 1.5 percent after saying it plans to demerge its thermal coal operations in South Africa.

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