EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Struggle To Break Grip Of Stronger Euro

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Stoxx 600 on course for weekly loss

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European stocks searched for firm direction Friday, held in check by strength in the euro, as the flow of corporate earnings results failed to provide a lift.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.1% at 384.42, but has been dipping in and out of positive territory throughout the session.

"The strength of the euro does appear to be acting as a bit of a headwind for European stocks as they look to close the week sharply lower, in contrast to the performance of U.K. and U.S. stocks this week," wrote CMC Markets' chief market analyst Michael Hewson on Friday.

The Stoxx 600 was on track for a weekly decline of 0.7%, while London's FTSE 100 looks set for a rise (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-edges-up-reaches-for-a-weekly-win-2017-07-21) of 1.6% for the week.

Euphoric euro: At the same time, the euro was trading at a two-year high against the dollar, buying $1.1644. A stronger euro can put pressure on sales to overseas customers by European exporters, and hurt shares of those companies.

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The shared currency was holding well above the $1.16 handle captured on Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the central bank will continue its pace of bond buying until December. He said policy makers will discuss the program in the "autumn," but didn't say whether that meant the ECB's September policy meeting.

Read:Nobody told the euro that Mario Draghi was dovish (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nobody-told-the-euro-that-mario-draghi-was-dovish-2017-07-20)

"There was nothing in the overall narrative [from Draghi] that came across as remotely hawkish," said Hewson. "Sadly for him the currency markets weren't buying it, and the euro, after initially dipping, roared back in the afternoon session."

Stock movers: Investors had plenty of corporate financial updates to sort through on Friday.

Shares of Philips Lighting NV (LIGHT.AE) tumbled 7.1% after the Dutch company posted a decline in second-quarter sales to 1.70 billion euros and a fall in comparable sales. Profit, however, was higher.

Meanwhile, Valeo SA shares (FR.FR) dropped 4.1% as the French car-parts manufacturer's first-half sales increased to EUR9.46 billion, but still fell short of expectations of EUR9.56 billion from a Reuters survey of analysts.

On the upside, Vodafone (VOD.LN) picked up 1.4% after the mobile phone services provider reiterated its earnings outlook for the full year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/vodafone-revenue-drops-on-forex-effects-2017-07-21).

Individual indexes: The U.K.'s FTSE 100 outperformed regional benchmarks by rising 0.4% to 7,514.81 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-edges-up-reaches-for-a-weekly-win-2017-07-21).

France's CAC 40 index flipped between small gains and losses, recently logging a rise of 0.1% at 5,203.95.

In Frankfurt, the DAX 30 index , which is heavily weighted by exporters, edged up 0.1% to 12,453.11.

Spain's IBEX 35 fell 0.2% to 10,548, and Italy's FTSE MIB was little changed at 21,433.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 21, 2017 05:38 ET (09:38 GMT)