StockBeat: Euro Stoxx 600 Hits All-Time High on U.K. Melt-Up

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StockBeat: Euro Stoxx 600 Hits All-Time High on U.K. Melt-Up
Credit: © Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith -- Europe’s benchmark stock index hit a new all-time high Monday as investors poured money into U.K. stocks and the continent continued to enjoy support from news of the U.S.-China trade truce on Friday.

By 5:15 AM ET (1015 GMT), the benchmark Stoxx 600 index was at 416.46, just off the new record high of 416.60 that it posted earlier in the morning. The U.K. FTSE 100 was up 2.0% as international investors took advantage of a dip in sterling, which paused for breath after a steep rally in the wake of last week’s general election. Mining stocks in particular were supported by data overnight suggesting that the Chinese economy is bottoming out.

The DAX lagged a little, rising only 0.6%. That was due in part to reports that China had threatened Germany with “consequences” if Berlin moves to exclude Huawei from building sensitive 5G telecoms networks.

The gains across the continent were somewhat at odds with ‘flash’ purchasing manager indexes which showed no real sign of improvement in manufacturing activity after a year in which they have tumbled to the lowest levels in a decade.

IHS Markit’s manufacturing PMI for the euro zone fell to 45.9 from 46.9 in November, with both the French and German indexes falling short of expectations. The composite eurozone PMI stayed just in positive territory at 50.6, thanks to slightly better-than-expected contributions from services.

However, that rounded off the weakest quarter for the Eurozone economy since it emerged from recession in 2013.

“Germany’s steep manufacturing downturn has added to the chance of its economy contracting slightly in the fourth quarter, but France is enjoying a more resilient performance, providing a key area of support to help keep the eurozone growing,” IHSMarkit’s Chris Williamson said in a statement.

Although new export orders in the region’s largest economy ticked up slightly, “the ‘green shoots’ narrative remains more a forecast than rooted in actual data,” said Dario Perkins, head of global macro strategy at TS Lombard in London.

Business activity in the U.K. declined in both manufacturing and services in December, according to its flash PMIs. However, those surveys have already been superseded by the election, which has changed investor sentiment toward the world’s most unloved asset class – U.K. equities – almost overnight.

Despite the generally positive tone, the most conspicuous individual movements were down: Swedish appliance maker Electrolux (ST: ELUXb ) fell 12% after saying that it would incur higher-than-expected costs from moving to new facilities in the U.S. and that cost savings would not be as high next year as it had first forecast. Meanwhile U.K.-based Cineworld (LON: CINE ) fell 7.8% after saying it will buy Canada’s biggest operator of movie theaters, Cineplex, for $2.1 billion, in a debt-financed deal that will leave it highly leveraged. On the more positive side, slower-than-expected quarterly sales growth failed to stop fast fashion giant H&M (ST: HMb ) rising over 2% to a new one-month high.

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