Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS

London — European markets opened higher on Friday with most stock indices rising modestly after a volatile week in which company earnings and growth worries hit stocks, though the euro sank after a weaker-than-expected German business survey.

Italian stocks led the bounce in equities, rallying hard after the country’s bond yields fell after a press report that EU affairs minister Paolo Savona is considering resigning over the government’s decision to challenge EU budget rules.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.3%. Europe’s performance on Friday stood in contrast to Asia, where steep losses in Chinese markets hit stocks amid lingering trade-war tensions and worries about global growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.23% as Chinese blue-chips tumbled 2% and the Shanghai Composite index lost 2.2%.

Not all was cheerful in Europe though: German business surveys came in weaker than expected, pushing the euro to its lowest in three days. Eurozone business growth was much weaker than expected this month as exports fell sharply, hurt by a slowing global economy and a US-led trade war.

The disappointing readings will likely be of concern to policy makers at the European Central Bank (ECB) who are expected to draw a line under their €2.6bn asset purchase programme at the end of the year.

“The economy in the eurozone has cooled significantly over the past months and unless this is just a brief interlude, the ECB might be forced to stick to an expansionary monetary policy,” said Thu Lan Nguyen, a currency strategist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Purchasing manager indices from the US, due later in the day, will be watched for a reading on where global growth is headed.

The MSCI All-Country World Index of stocks was down 0.03% on the day, and set for a second week in the red. US equity futures were pointing to weakness on Wall Street when trading resumes on Friday. S&P E-mini futures were down 0.2%.

Darkening outlook

On Thursday, stock markets in Europe were hit by disappointing earnings on further signs that corporate profit growth is peaking globally.

These earnings underscored the lingering anxiety among equity investors as trade tensions, slowing global investment and growth kept stock markets on the back foot after a difficult October. A draft deal between Britain and the EU on future relations reached on Thursday did little to lighten the mood.

Daiwa analyst Chris Scicluna said: “Asian equity indices have largely picked up the baton of negativity from European markets yesterday.”

He noted that investor apprehension was high before next week’s Buenos Aires bilateral meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and added: “Following vice-president [Mike] Pence’s tough rhetoric at the APEC summit, making it clear that the Trump administration is in no hurry to end the trade war and calling on China to change its ways, that’s perhaps no surprise.”

In the currency market, the pound was down 0.2%, buying $1.2844 after rising more than 1% on the news of the draft agreement between Britain and the EU, which describes a close post-Brexit relationship. The agreement follows a draft treaty last week that set the terms for Britain’s departure from the EU in March.

However, the deal faces a rocky ride once it reaches a deeply divided British parliament containing hardline eurosceptic and staunch pro-EU factions, and various shades of grey in between.

The dollar weakened 0.08% against the yen to ¥112.84. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was down 0.04%.

China’s yuan fell to 6.9498 against dollar, on trade concerns. The currency has also come under pressure in recent weeks in sympathy with falling Chinese rates, with yields on shorter-term Chinese government bonds below their US counterparts.

In commodities markets, oil prices fell to their lowest since late 2017 in choppy trading, weighed down by an emerging crude supply overhang and a darkening economic outlook. US crude was trading down 2.2% at $53.43 after coming within 5c of an October 2017 low reached earlier in the week. Brent crude futures were last down 0.7% at $62.12 a barrel.

Spot gold was down 0.3% at $1,223.24 an ounce.