European stocks were headed for a positive finish on Friday, in step with surging equity prices around the world as investors looked past a record climb in U.S. jobless levels, and cheered news of progress on U.S.-China trade discussions.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, +0.74% rose 0.8% to 340.97, and was set for a weekly gain of 1%. The German DAX DAX, +1.72% rose 1.3% and the French CAC 40 PX1, +0.80% rose 1% . London markets were closed for a holiday marking the end of World War 2 in Europe.
A record 20.5 million U.S. jobs were lost in April, and the unemployment rate hit a post World War 2 high of 14.7%. The so-called U6 unemployment rate hit 23%, suggesting one in four Americans are either underemployed or jobless. Worries about the downturn ahead for the U.S. economy has increased speculation that the Federal Reserve will push interest rates to below zero next year.
European Union officials this week warned of a recession of “historic proportions” for member countries this year, noting a likely uneven downturn and recovery across the world’s biggest trading bloc. Fresh data on Friday showed German export data and Spanish industrial production seeing record declines.
Investors were encouraged though by a report in China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency of phone conversation between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who pledged to create favorable conditions for a Phase 1 trade deal.
Concern about China-U.S. relations worried markets earlier this week after President Donald Trump threatened sanctions against the country over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
On the corporate front, shares of ING Groep NV INGA, +3.21% ING, +4.78% climbed nearly 5% after the bank reported a sharp fall in first-quarter net profit as provisions to cover potential soured loans more-than tripled.
A team of Citi analysts led by Stefan NedialkovCiti noted that ING’s reported net profit in the first quarter beat consensus by 70% on better net interest income, fees, provisions that were 10% below expectations and much higher other operating income.
Shares of German industrial group Siemens AG SIE, +5.34% climbed over 5% after a second-quarter beat in revenue, orders and operating profit, noted analysts at Citi. The company also announced plans to spin off its mechanical drive systems manufacturer Flender later this year.
“EPS guidance has been suspended but this will not be seen as a surprise, and revised revenue guidance for a ‘moderate’ decline in 2020 looks slightly better than consensus expectations,” said a team of analysts led by Martin Wilkie. The reconfirmed intention to spin Siemens Energy in September is also a positive.