EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Flirt With Almost 21-month High After Earnings Deluge

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Germany's DAX on track for record close

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Europe's benchmark stock index headed for an almost 21-month high on Thursday, boosted by a round of well-received earnings reports from heavyweights such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC and HSBC Holdings PLC.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.3% to 390.59, setting it on track for the highest close since August 2015.

The pan-European benchmark has put on 2.7% over the past month, thanks in part to bets that French voters will elect markets-friendly candidate Emmanuel Macron in Sunday's presidential election and reject far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

A televised debate between Macron and Le Pen on Wednesday evening was seen as doing little to change the 20 points lead for Macron.

France's CAC 40 index was up 0.6% at 5,331.91 on Thursday. Germany's DAX 30 index gained 0.6% to 12,605.51, putting it on path for a record close. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index gained 0.3% to 7,254.68.

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Stock movers: A deluge of earnings helped steer the markets on Thursday.

Shares of HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.LN) (HSBA.LN) (HSBA.LN) jumped 2.7% after the U.K. banking heavyweight reported a bigger-than-expected first-quarter profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hsbc-profit-beats-views-spurring-buyback-hopes-2017-05-04).

In the energy sector, shares of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) added 2.8%. The oil giant said its profit more than quadrupled (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/shell-profits-soar-as-oil-sector-makes-a-comeback-2017-05-04) in the first quarter as it benefited from an increase in oil prices.

In the same vein, Statoil ASA (STL.OS) (STL.OS) added 2.8% after earnings beat forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/statoil-earnings-beat-expectations-2017-05-04).

Adidas AG (ADS.XE) (ADS.XE) climbed 2.8% after the German sportswear retailer posted a rise in profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/adidas-profit-rises-on-strong-us-demand-2017-05-04), buoyed by strong sales in North America.

Among decliners, shares of Siemens AG (SIE.XE) (SIE.XE) slipped 1.1%. The German industrial conglomerate's second-quarter profit was little changed from the year ago, as losses from discontinued operations weighed on profit margins.

French bank Société Générale SA (GLE.FR) lost 0.4% after posting a 19% decline in quarterly profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/societe-generale-profit-down-19-settles-with-lia-2017-05-04). The bank also said it has settled a legal dispute (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/societe-generale-libya-fund-to-settle-fraud-case-2017-05-04) with the Libyan Investment Authority over alleged bribery during the final years of dictator Moammar Gadhafi's rule.

Shares of Next PLC (NXT.LN) slumped 5.5% after the U.K. retailer lowered its full-year sales forecast (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/next-warns-of-full-year-sales-profit-shortfall-2017-05-04).

Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (RR.LN) (RR.LN) gave up 1.5% even after the engine maker said it expects sterling weakness to benefit earnings this year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/rolls-royce-warns-on-earnings-hit-from-weak-pound-2017-05-04).

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA (ABI.BT) (ABI.BT) put on 3.9% after the world's largest brewer by sales reported a sharp rise in profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ab-inbev-profit-surges-amid-us-brazil-headwinds-2017-05-04).

Peer brewer Carlsberg AS (CARL-A.KO) gained 2.1% following a 5% rise in revenue (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/carlsberg-quarterly-revenue-rises-5-2017-05-04).

Economic news: The final eurozone services purchasing managers index for April rose to 56.4, up from a flash estimate of 56.2 and higher than March's 56 reading. The composite PMI came in at 56.8, up from 56.4 in March and marking a six-year high. A reading above 50 signals expansion in the economy.

"The encouraging picture from the survey data is likely to help raise many forecasters' expectations of eurozone economic growth in 2017, and will also no doubt add to speculation that ECB rhetoric will turn increasingly hawkish," said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit in a note.

The euro traded at $1.0914, up from $1.0887 late Wednesday in New York.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 04, 2017 04:37 ET (08:37 GMT)