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Markets

European shares log worst week since mid-March

Miners jump after positive China data German economy suffers worst contraction since 2009 in Q1 Wirecard
15 May 2020
  • Miners jump after positive China data
  • German economy suffers worst contraction since 2009 in Q1
  • Wirecard slumps to lowest in two years

European stocks closed higher on Friday, but marked their worst weekly losses since mid-March as rising US-China tensions added to concerns that a global economic downturn may be here longer than feared.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended 0.5% higher, with miners rising 2.8% after data showed China's industrial production climbed by a faster-than-expected 3.9% in April.

European shares lost some ground by afternoon trading as Washington acted to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies from global chipmakers, in an action ramping up trade tensions with China again.

Global stock markets have largely stalled this month after a solid rebound in April on fears of a possible resurgence in COVID-19 cases as countries ease restrictions and a worrying outlook from US officials on economic recovery.

The STOXX 600 recorded a 3.8% weekly loss, while most regional indexes also saw their biggest weekly drop in two months when coronavirus-induced selling peaked.

"The market is torn between stimulus, new infections and economic data," Keith Temperton at Tavira Securities said. "The data is bad, but the stimulus is outweighing it for now. But I don't imagine it's going to last."

Europe's semiconductor stocks took a hit in response to the latest trade comments, with Germany's Dialog Semiconductor and Siltronic falling 3.3% and 1%, respectively.

Keeping Paris shares almost flat, chipmaker STMicroelectronics fell 3%.

An early reading of Germany's first-quarter GDP showed that Europe's largest economy contracted by 2.2% in the first quarter, its steepest slump since the 2009 financial crisis, with worse expected by mid-year.

But euro zone finance ministers were holding a meeting by teleconference to discuss fiscal measures designed to mitigate the economic fallout. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz plans a supplementary budget, which could involve taking on 100 billion euros ($108.25 billion) in extra debt, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Supporting market gains on Friday, German food-processing equipment maker GEA Group jumped 10% after reporting better-than-expected first quarter results and confirmed its 2020 forecast.

Britain's biggest telecoms group BT Group Plc gained 5.4% after a report that it was in talks to sell a stake in its wholly owned network subsidiary, Openreach. But the company said the report was "inaccurate" after markets closed.

Swiss drugmaker Roche edged up 1.8% after saying it would start selling a new digital diagnostics product that may simplify and accelerate screening of COVID-19 patients.

Luxury group Richemont fell 2% after reporting a 67% fall in annual profit and said the impact of the coronavirus could last up to three years.

German payments company Wirecard tumbled 7.6% to hit a two-year low, with traders pointing to a tweet about a business partner based in Dubai liquidating as a reason for the fall. Wirecard later confirmed that Al Alam Solution Provider was closing.