By Peter Nurse
Investing.com – European stock markets edged higher Friday with investors digesting the news that Russia and the U.S. are set to meet next week, raising hopes that there can be a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis
By 4 AM ET (0900 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.2% higher, the CAC 40 in France climbed 0.6% while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2%.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for talks in Europe next week, the State Department said late Thursday.
This follows the ramping up of tensions after Ukrainian government forces and Moscow-backed rebels accused each other of breaking cease-fire rules, potentially creating a pretext for Russia to invade.
Helping the tone Friday was the news that U.K. retail sales rose 1.9% on the month in January, a jump of 9.1% on the year, as consumers returned to shops after the Omicron surge in late 2021.
Additionally, France’s unemployment rate fell in the final quarter of last year to the lowest level since 2008, dropping to 7.4% from 8.0% in the previous three months, better than the expected 7.8%.
Corporate news from France was not so good, however. Electricite de France (PA:EDF) stock fell 4% after the French government announced it would pump in over 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) to prop up the troubled state-controlled power group, with the company undertaking a 2.5 billion euro rights issue as a consequence.
Hermes (PA:HRMS) stock fell 4.8% after the luxury house said sales grew by 11% in the fourth quarter of 2021, a touch below market expectations that had driven the stock to an eye-wateringly high valuation by late last year. It’s now down nearly 30% from November but still trades at over 50 times 2021 earnings.
More encouragingly, Renault (PA:RENA) stock climbed 4.5% after the French auto giant posted a profit for 2021, beating expectations after two straight years of losses aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent chip supply issues.
Staying in the auto sector, Volkswagen (DE:VOWG) stock fell 0.3% after a container ship carrying a number of the group’s vehicles from Germany to the U.S. caught fire near the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands.
NatWest (LON:NWG) stock fell 2% after the U.K. lender relied on releasing more provisions for souring loans in order to beat earnings estimates in the fourth quarter, while Eni (MI:ENI) stock climbed 1.3% after the Italian energy company reported that its fourth-quarter net income had returned to pre-Covid levels after oil and gas prices soared.
Oil prices slipped, heading for a weekly fall, as traders digested the raised prospects of Iranian oil returning to the global market, which outweighed ongoing Russia-Ukraine risks.
A draft accord is taking shape that outlines a sequence of steps that would eventually lead to the removal of oil sanctions on the Persian Gulf country’s crude exports. Such a deal could result in an additional 1 million barrels a day of oil coming back to the market.
By 4 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1.4% lower at $90.44 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 1.3% to $91.71. Both contracts were set for their first weekly fall in nine weeks, after hitting their highest levels for over seven years earlier in the week.
Additionally, gold futures fell 0.3% to $1,896.00/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.1373.
European Stocks Edge Higher; Ukraine Diplomacy, Corporate Earnings in Focus
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