European markets inch cautiously higher, tracking global sentiment

  • Hopes of a swift global economic recovery were boosted Thursday by data showing U.S. retail sales jumped 9.8% in March, outstripping consensus expectations as additional stimulus sent consumer spending soaring.
  • European investors will have an eye on final euro area inflation figures for March, due for release at 10 a.m. London time, along with February's balance of trade data.
  • China's first-quarter gross domestic product and March industrial production missed economist expectations, while March retail sales topped projections.

LONDON — European markets edged modestly higher on Friday after notching record highs the previous session, as global stocks take heart from strong U.S. economic data and recovery prospects.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 gained 0.25% in early trade, with autos adding 1.1% to lead gains while household goods slid 0.4%.

Shares in Europe are set for a tepid handover from Asia-Pacific, where investors reacted to the release of Chinese economic data. First-quarter gross domestic product and March industrial production missed economist expectations, while March retail sales topped projections.

Hopes of a swift global economic recovery were boosted Thursday by data showing U.S. retail sales jumped 9.8% in March, outstripping consensus expectations as additional stimulus sent consumer spending soaring. The Labor Department's latest report on Thursday showed that U.S. jobless claims dropped last week to their lowest since March 2020, adding further upward momentum to stocks.

The positive surprises powered the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 34,000 points for the first time in history. Stock futures indicate a flat open on Wall Street Friday.

U.S. Treasury yields are back in focus after a sharp drop on Thursday confounded investors, despite the strong economic numbers. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield was down at around 1.58% early Friday.

European investors will have an eye on final euro area inflation figures for March, due for release at 10 a.m. London time, along with February's balance of trade data.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finnish retail conglomerate Kesko jumped 6.2% in early trade after reporting 16.9% sales growth in March from the same period last year. German meal-kit delivery firm Hellofresh gained 4.7% after a strong first-quarter earnings report.

British retailer WH Smith climbed 4.3% after RBC upgraded the stock to "outperform" and raised its target price.

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