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European shares close at highest in a week; Indra surges

European shares close at highest in a week; Indra surges

By Ankika Biswas and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) -European shares closed at their highest levels in one week on Monday, with investor optimism over interest rate cuts from major central banks back to the fore, while Spanish defence company Indra jumped following a strong first-quarter profit.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.5%, with the insurance sector leading gains with a 1.6% rise. UK equities were closed due to a public holiday.

Supporting sentiment, European Central Bank policymakers Philip Lane, Gediminas Simkus and Boris Vujcic said separately that the latest inflation and growth data cemented their belief that inflation will head back to the central bank’s 2% target by the middle of next year.

European stocks have lost some of their shine from the start of the year due to uncertainties including the health of European businesses, Middle East tensions and the ECB’s policy outlook beyond June.

“The ECB’s concern is that if negotiated wage rates continue their steep ascent then it could be more difficult to get inflation risk under control,” Scotiabank analysts said in a note.

The STOXX 600 is up around 6% year-to-date, lagging the more than 8.1% rise in its U.S. benchmark peer S&P 500, whose rally has also stalled due to doubts about the timing of the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate cut.

Goldman Sachs raised its 2024 earnings growth forecast for STOXX 600 companies to 6% from 3%, citing higher commodity prices, stickier inflation, a weaker currency and stronger economic growth.

On the day, energy-heavy Oslo’s all-share index outperformed the broader region with a 1.4% increase, tracking higher crude prices after Saudi Arabia hiked June crude prices for most regions and as prospects of a Gaza ceasefire deal appeared slim. [O/R]

Among individual European shares, Indra jumped 8.8% after the defence and technology company reported a 40% rise in first-quarter net profit, supported by strong orders as global tensions spur demand for air defences.

Maurel et Prom rose 7.3% after the French oil group got a specific license for its operations in Venezuela.

On the other hand, Atos fell 4.4% after the debt-laden French IT company announced four investor offers for debt restructuring and cash infusion, saying any restructuring would likely to “lead to a massive dilution of existing shareholders”.

Dutch postal firm PostNL dropped nearly 4% after a wider-than-expected first-quarter loss.

Volvo Cars’ sales rose 27% in April from a year earlier, boosted by demand for electric and hybrid vehicles, sending shares of the Sweden-based group 1% higher.

Danish hearing aid maker Demant A/S fell 3.6% after a first-quarter sales miss.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Susan Fenton)

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