European stocks concluded in the red Friday as investors digested the latest earnings reports and Chinese growth data, ahead of a key oil summit this weekend.
The pan-European STOXX 600 closed down 0.35 percent provisionally. On the week, however, the STOXX 600 jumped 3.3 percent.
All major European bourses closed down some 0.3 to 0.4 percent. The Athens stock exchange however outperformed fellow indexes, jumping 4.9 percent, on the back of a strong performance in its banking sector.
Investors in Europe woke up to the latest gross domestic product (GDP) data from China on Friday. China’s first-quarter GDP expanded by 6.7 percent on-year, in line with forecasts that growth had moderately eased. For the December quarter, the reading came in at 6.8 percent.
Markets in Asia ended mixed, with markets having a broadly muted reaction to the data. China’s Shanghai composite and the Shenzhen composite both closed slightly lower. In the U.S., markets traded roughly flat around Europe’s close, as oil weighed on sentiment.
Investors worldwide are now shifting their focus to Doha, where OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers are expected to meet this Sunday. The talks will focus on a freeze in production levels in a bid to support prices but most analysts are skeptical that a workable deal can be reached.
Brent crude and U.S. crude saw prices drop over 2.5 percent—at $42.78 and $40.31 respectively—at Europe’s Friday close as doubts over the meeting started to escalate. Oil and gas stocks fell on the price decline, with Tullow Oil at the bottom of benchmarks, off 5.6 percent.
Autos under pressure despite data
European new car sales rose 5.7 percent in March, according to data from industry body ACEA. But the autos sector was under pressure on Friday.
Auto equipment maker Faurecia closed down some 3.6 percent after the firm said quarterly sales fell 2 percent in China. Societe Generale also cut its outlook on the stock from “buy” to “hold”. Fellow French-listed car firms Peugeot Citroen and Valeo closed sharply lower on the back of this.
Volkswagen also under-performed, closing 2.4 percent down after the German carmaker said March brand sales were down 2.7 percent, highlighting that it is still feeling the effects from the diesel emissions scandal.
Banks, earnings in focus
Job cuts were once again on the agenda in the banking sector with BNP Paribas proposing a voluntary redundancy program which could see up to 675 positions lost from the French bank in the next three years. Shares closed down over 1 percent.
Some of the Italian banks finished higher however, as the plan to help with their bad loans continues to gather steam. The country’s government has proposed a fund that will be able to buy non-performing loans from the Italian banks. Banco Popolare popped over 4.5 percent.
Elsewhere, earnings were in focus once again for investors. French supermarket chain Carrefour reported sales in line with expectations, but showed signs of slowing in its home market of France and pointed to weakness in China. Still, shares jumped some 3.8 percent.
The world’s largest listed hedge fund Man Group saw shares jump over 7 percent, after it revealed it had held onto most of the assets it invests, despite a challenging first quarter for fund managers, Reuters reported.
French hotel group Accor fell over 1.5 percent after JPMorgan cut its price target for the stock. And Intercontinental Hotels Group fell over 2 percent after JPMorgan cut its outlook on the stock.
Shares of British luxury fashion brand Burberry closed sharply lower following cautious results on Thursday and after a number of brokers including JPMorgan and Bernstein cut their price target for the stock.