European stocks closed higher on Tuesday, starting the new quarter in positive fashion, after a slew of economic data was released for the euro zone and in the U.S.
Stimulus on the cards?
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed higher by 0.5 percent at 1,399.74 points, with a broad-based rally after closing the previous quarter with slim gains of just 1.2 percent. In 2013, the index gained 16 percent.
A fresh bout of economic data was released Tuesday which gave both the European Central Bank (ECB) and investors plenty to think about. Unemployment in the euro area remained stuck at 11.9 percent in February, hardly moving from this time last year, when the figure was 12 percent, according to the European Statistics Office, Eurostat.
Meanwhile, the euro zone manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, compiled by data company Markit, hit 53.0 in March, down from 53.2 the previous month, but still above the crucial 50 mark that signals growth. The figure is also below the January high of 54.
“Despite having cooled slightly in March, the euro area manufacturing sector continues to enjoy its best spell of growth since early-2011. The rate of output growth remains encouragingly robust,” Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit said in the accompanying press release.
The French CAC 40 hit its highest level since September 2008 during afternoon trade, closing up 0.7 percent, after data showed the country’s manufacturing sector was recovering from a long decline.
Benchmark indexes in Greece, Portugal and Italy – which surged at least 14 percent in the first quarter – continued to perform strongly.