European shares closed at a three-week high on Friday, underpinned by luxury and defensive stocks at the end of a week that was dominated by major central bank policy decisions.
The continent-wide European STOXX 600 index rose 0.5%. The index gained 1.5% in the policy-packed week, its best performance in over two months.
China-focused luxury stocks such as LVMH and Richemont gained nearly 3% each, boosting the broader STOXX 600.
France’s luxury-heavy CAC 40 advanced 1.3% leading regional gains, while Germany’s DAX closed at a fresh all-time high.
Defensive shares such as healthcare gained 0.9%, and utilities climbed 1.3% to a four-week peak.
“These are the stocks that always do well when people start to rebalance things because they’re anticipating that rates are going to stay higher for longer and that pain is going to continue to filter through to the consumer pockets,” said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell.
The STOXX 600 had ended Thursday lower after the European Central Bank (ECB) raised borrowing costs and signalled more policy tightening in its fight against sticky inflation, a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s hawkish pause.
In contrast, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) maintained ultra-easy monetary policy on Friday despite stronger-than-expected inflation, signalling it will remain a dovish outlier among global central banks.
The STOXX 600 broke away from a restrictive 1% trading range that was seen for much of the past two weeks, as investors gradually start putting behind major central bank events.
Still, the Bank of England rate decision is due next week and the central bank is likely to raise interest rates by a quarter point to a 15-year high of 4.75%.
Shares of Travis Perkins, Britain’s biggest supplier of building materials, fell 6.7% to the bottom of STOXX index, after the company flagged that profit would be hit by challenges in the country’s housing market.
“The housing market is being battered at the moment because of high interest rates,” added Hewson.
“House builders are in for a continued rocky ride.”
Shares of Rheinmetall climbed 4.9% after the defence contractor said it expects to strike an ammunition deal worth billions of euros with the German government in the coming weeks.
Stockholm-listed shares of Millicom slid 3.2% after the telecom group said talks with Apollo Global Management and Claure Group about a potential bid for the company had been terminated.