Europe open: Stocks edge ahead with eyes on US CPI data

By Frank Prenesti

European shares edged ahead on the final day of the year’s first quarter as investors eyed crucial personal consumption numbers in the US later in the afternoon.
The pan-regional Stoxx 600 was up 0.15% in early deals with all major bourses higher after positive sessions on Wall Street and Asia.

“January was notable for a strong bout of early year optimism and a risk-on approach, whereas market mettle was then tested by renewed interest rate and inflation concerns in February and banking sector turmoil in March,” said Interactive Investor head of markets Richard Hunter.

“The new quarter will bring further tests as the interest rate picture clears, along with a quarterly reporting season which could not only show some scars from the first quarter, but will be equally important in terms of company outlooks.”

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index – the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation – is expected to show a 0.4% rise in core prices in February as compared to 0.6% in the prior month.

In economic news, the UK economy grew a touch in the final quarter of last year, according to figures released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics, meaning a recession was avoided in the second half.

The GDP figure was revised up from an initial estimate of zero growth to 0.1% growth, following an upwardly-revised 0.1% contraction in the third quarter. The initial estimate had shown a 0.2% contraction in Q3.

The latest official PMIs out of China on Friday indicated that the country’s economic recovery continued in March.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 51.9 in March from 52.6 in February, coming in above consensus expectations for decline to 51.6.

Meanwhile, the non-manufacturing PMI rose to 58.2 from 56.3, versus consensus expectations of 55.0. This marked the highest reading since 2011.

A broker upgrade for British Airways owner IAG provided a boost for the stock, in turn lifting budget rivals Wizz Air and easyJet.

Reporting by Frank Prenesti for Sharecast.com

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