European stock markets ended mixed Friday as investors digested a key speech from the U.K.’s prime minister on Brexit.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed flat, up just 0.05 percent provisionally, with sectors moving in different directions. For the week it was up 0.64 percent.
The U.K.’s FTSE 100 jumped 0.6 percent following a speech from Prime Minister May which gave little detail on how she wants a Brexit transition period to work. Sterling fell against the dollar on the speech, potentially boosting revenues at large U.K firms that deal in dollars.
Looking at specific sectors, basic resources were among the worst-performing groups. The sector was impacted by the decision of Standard & Poor’s to downgrade China’s credit worthiness.
The steel producer Arcelormittal was among those at the bottom of the European benchmark, down by more than 1.5 percent. The firm is facing growing competition in its sector after Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp announced a tentative agreement to merge their European businesses to create Europe’s second-largest producer – just behind Arcelormittal.
British engineer Smiths was the worst-performing stock, down by more than 5 percent, after reporting full-year pre-tax profits.
On the other hand, L’Oreal rose 2.9 percent – being one of the top performing stocks of the day. This followed news that 94-year-old Liliane Bettencourt, who had the largest share of the company, passed away. This boosted traders’ opinion that Nestle will soon seek a higher stake in L’Oreal.
Alstom rose to the top of the European benchmark, up by nearly 5 percent, after French authorities approved a potential tie-up with the German Siemens.
In the U.S. stocks fell Friday on the rising geopolitical tensions with North Korea.
French GDP rose on consumer spending
In terms of data, French second-quarter gross domestic product rose 0.5 percent from the previous quarter, on higher consumer spending. Corporate profit margins also increased slightly during the three-month period.
French flash PMIs (Purchasing Managers’ Index) also showed Friday that both services and manufacturing activities increased in August to their highest level since May 2011.
Meanwhile, IHS Markit figures for the euro zone showed private businesses growing stronger in the third quarter of this year, mainly due to the manufacturing sector. The positive data boosted confidence that the European Central Bank will announce monetary tightening next month.
“The euro zone economy maintained its strong first-half momentum in the third quarter judging by the PMIs,” Claus Vistesen, chief euro zone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in an email.