European stocks eked out some modest gains Friday ahead of another round of U.S. economic data, that should shed some further light on whether the recovery in the world’s largest economy continues to pick up steam.
In recent weeks, stocks have rallied on the combination of upbeat U.S. economic data and a more benign European debt backdrop despite some unease over the rise in the price of oil, which could cloud the investment picture by threatening the global recovery. Many of the world’s major indexes are trading at multi-month highs. On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed Thursday above 1,400 for the first time since May 2008.
“Equity markets have continued to push higher at the end of a very positive week, largely on the back of optimism over the economic recovery in the U.S., and a belief that the problems in Europe have been somewhat alleviated in the short to medium term, with the final approval of the Greek bailout, by the IMF yesterday,” said Michael Hewson, markets analyst at CMC Markets.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.4 percent at 5,963 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.1 percent to 3,582. Germany’s DAX was 0.1 percent higher too at 7,154. The euro was underperforming however as the dollar continues to garner support from the improving U.S. economic picture — it was trading 0.2 percent lower at $1.3055.
Wall Street was poised for a steady open too — both Dow futures and S&P 500 futures were up 0.1 percent.
With few developments in Europe, investors continue to take their cue from developments across the Atlantic. Later, the focus will be on official inflation and industrial production figures as well as the closely watched consumer confidence survey from the University of Michigan.
One growing concern in the markets is what is happening with the price of oil. Rising oil prices raise inflation worries as well as potentially derailing the recovery picture.
“There are concerns, however that this recovery in equity markets could start to stall and tail off if oil prices, the lifeblood of any economy, continue to rise at their current pace and kill off demand,” said CMC’s Hewson.
On Thursday, oil prices oscillated wildly, with the benchmark New York rate dropping around $3 a barrel at one stage on reports that the U.S. and Britain had agreed to release spare supplies of oil in an effort to drive fuel prices lower. However, White House press secretary Jay Carney said there was no plan to release supplies and oil prices recovered much of their losses and are currently trading around the $105 a barrel mark.
Earlier in Asia, Asian shares took a breather following a strong run earlier this week.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed slightly higher at 10,129.83 after morning profit-taking sent the benchmark into negative territory. The Nikkei has clocked a week of gains largely due to the yen’s retreat from record highs against the dollar. The dollar was up a further 0.2 percent on the day at 83.73 yen.
Mainland Chinese shares advanced with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gaining 1.3 percent to 2,404.74. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 21,317.85 and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.5 percent to 2,034.44.