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European shares at record high on gains in financials, U.S. spending plan

Stocks push for record high on $6 trillion U.S. spending hopes

By Ambar Warrick and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) -European shares rose to a record high on Friday as British-exposed financial stocks gained following a hawkish comment from a Bank of England official, with the prospects of increased U.S. fiscal spending boosting market sentiment.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.6% to a record high of 448.98 points and added 1% this week.

The Europe-only STOXX index and the European blue chip index added about 0.7% each, trading just below multi-year highs.

Bank stocks rose 0.4% to a 15-month high, tracking a rise in euro zone bond yields. British lenders, including HSBC, led the gains after a Bank of England policymaker suggested an earlier-than-signalled hike in lending rates. [GVD/EUR]

Gains in British-exposed stocks supported the insurance and financial services sectors, which were the best performing sectors for the day.

Optimism over economic growth has supported European stocks this year, with several economies loosening their COVID-19 curbs against the backdrop of a steady vaccination campaign.

The reopening measures have boosted the travel and leisure stocks, which outpaced their regional peers this week with a 4% jump.

“With May all but over apart from next Monday … the month is ending on a positive note, as strong momentum continues to carry markets higher while investors learn to acclimatise to an environment of higher inflation,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG

Data showed economic sentiment improved by more than expected to a three-year high in May, with the strongest gains in services, retail and among consumers as governments eased pandemic restrictions.

German stocks added 0.7%, as the country planned to offer adolescents COVID-19 vaccine shots from early-June.

Markets also took comfort in the prospect of more liquidity, after a report said U.S. President Joe Biden will seek $6 trillion in federal spending for 2022. Biden is expected to unveil his first full budget later in the day. [MKTS/GLOB]

Data showed U.S. inflation jumped in April, but Wall Street shrugged off the rise in prices. [.N]

“After reacting dramatically to signs of higher prices earlier in the year the boil has firmly come off the inflation story, markets apparently now able to take readings like today’s PCE in their stride,” Beauchamp said.

Among individual movers, Spanish bank Sabadell fell more than 6.5% even after it outlined plans for more cost cuts to improve profitability.

French planemaker Airbus extended solid gains from Thursday, hitting a near 15-month high after it outlined plans to nearly double output.

(Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Alison Williams)

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