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NEWS

European shares eke out gains amid interest rate uncertainty

By Sruthi Shankar and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) -European shares ended marginally higher on Monday, with defence stocks in the lead, but gains remained in check as investors awaited economic data against an uncertain backdrop on the outlook for interest rate cuts.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index edged up 0.1% closing a nudge below record highs hit last week. The aerospace and defence sector led sectoral gains with a 1.9% rise.

The technology sector climbed 0.8% in the lead up to Artificial Intelligence bellwether Nvidia’s first-quarter results expected later in the week out of the U.S.

Limiting gains on equities, euro zone sovereign bond yields climbed for the second day, with markets awaiting fresh eurozone business activity data later in the week, which could provide clues on the European Central Bank’s monetary path. [GVD/EUR]

“The fact that inflation is likely to fall below 2% temporarily after the summer suggests that a majority of ECB policymakers feel that it is safe to start easing policy in June before re-assessing the inflation outlook and possibly pausing in the autumn,” analysts at Societe Generale said in a note.

Late last week board member Isabel Schnabel said in an interview with Nikkei that the ECB may slash interest rates in June, but should be cautious about further cuts in borrowing costs given uncertainty over the outlook.

Markets are pricing in around 65 basis points (bps) of ECB rate cuts in 2024, as per LSEG’s rate probabilities app, compared with 67 bps on Friday.

The STOXX 600 index started the month of May with a nine-day winning streak that culminated in a record-high, and while the outlook for interest rates remains cloudy, analysts have highlighted further gains are on the horizon once the ECB’s monetary easing cycle kicks in.

Italian stocks slid 1.6%, with banks such as Banca Popolare di Sondrio and Banco BPM among the top decliners.

Among others, Volkswagen dipped 1.7% after Morgan Stanley downgraded the automaker to “under-weight” from “equal-weight” and turned cautious on German carmakers overall, pointing to shrinking margins and the potential for trade disputes.

Airbus added 1.2% after Saudia Group, owner of the Saudia airline and budget carrier flyadeal announced an order for 105 narrow-body aircraft in what the company’s director general described as the largest ever order from a Saudi airline.

Miners climbed about 0.7%, as copper prices surged to record highs helped by China’s property support measures and better-than-expected industrial data, while bullion prices also hit fresh peaks. [MET/L] [GOL/]

Stock markets in Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark were closed for Whit Monday holiday.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee and Andrew Heavens)

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