European stock markets traded choppily on Thursday, with support from the financial sector vying with losses for food-and-drink stocks, though Spanish and Greek stocks rebounded sharply from recent losses.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index (XX:SXXP) -0.42% wobbled in the early hours of trading, down 0.1% to 249.39. The index was off 0.3% on Wednesday.
In the financial sector, shares of Stoxx 600 heavyweight Swedbank AB (SE:SWEDA) +0.65% rose 1% and Swiss group UBS (CH:UBSN) +2.26% UBS -2.37% jumped 2.4%.
Retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB (SE:HMB) +1.16% rose more than 1% after UBS upgraded it to buy from neutral, saying the group is gaining market share.
Food, liquor and consumer sectors tugged on the downside The French CAC 40 index (FR:PX1) -0.91% led losses with a 0.6% fall to 3,101.03, as L’Oreal SA (FR:OR) -1.81% fell nearly 1.8%, Pernod Ricard SA FR:RI -1.69% dropped 1.6% and Danone SA (FR:BN) -1.36% slipped 1.3%.
Gainers included Peugeot SA (FR:UG) +5.17% , up 4.5% after a broker upgrade. Shares of French oil major Total SA (FR:FP) +0.75% TOT -2.57% gained nearly 0.8%.
The German DAX 30 index DX:DAX -0.03% rose 0.2% to 6,488.93, led by a 3.5% rise for Deutsche Telekom AG DE:DTE +0.50% after its fiscal first-quarter profit topped estimates.
The FTSE 100 index UK:UKX -0.39% was down 0.2% at 5,516.04, with liquor-and-beer giant Diageo PLC UK:DGE -1.70% dropping 1.5%.
Greece’s Athens General Index (GR:GD) +1.72% rose 2% to 626.69 after anti-bailout party Syriza failed in its bid to form a new coalition. The task now falls to the Greek Socialist party led by Evangelos Venizelos, though that party may also not have much luck in forming a government, analysts say.
Also helping with sentiment: The European Financial Stability Facility said late Wednesday that Greece will get most of its next aid tranche on schedule despite political turmoil in the country.
News that the Bank of Spain will take a 45% in Bankia SA (ES:BKIA) -3.29% , effectively nationalizing the troubled lender, served to soothe the Spain IBEX 35 index (XX:IBEX) +0.77% . The index rose nearly 2% to 6,938.90, after nearly a 3% tumble the prior session on banking-sector worries.
Bankia’s shares fell more than 2.5%, and are off more than 15% this week. The Spanish government is expected to announce a cleanup of its banking sector on Friday, with media reports speculating that banks could be forced to ramp up their provisions on property loans to 25% to 30% from a prior 7%.
Analysts at J.P. Morgan Cazenove warned on Thursday that that could have a “large impact on Spanish banking profits in 2012.” Shares of BBVA SA (ES:BBVA) +1.60% BBVA -5.54% and Banco Santander SA (ES:SAN) +1.64% STD -5.65% were up more than 2% each.
Leading Spanish stocks higher, oil major Repsol SA (ES:REP) +4.99% jumped nearly 5% after reporting a higher first-quarter profit driven by higher oil prices.