EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Score 4-month Closing High, But Italy Dents Gain
By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
Italian borrowing costs rise to highest since March 2017
European stocks scored an almost four-month closing high on Monday, after an easing in U.S.-China tensions fueled hopes a trade war between the world's two largest economies can be averted.
But a slump in stocks in Italy proved a drag, as an antiestablishment, euroskeptic coalition made progress in forming a new government.
What are markets doing?
The Stoxx Europe 600 index climbed 0.3% to close at 395.87, nudging its highest close since Jan. 30, according to FactSet data.
Italy's FTSE MIB index underperformed the rest of the region, falling 1.5% to 23,092.38. The move came as news reports said the 5 Star Movement and the League were ready to present their prime minister candidate.
The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index climbed 1% to 7,859.17, logging a record closing high (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-stocks-set-for-record-after-us-china-trade-war-looks-averted-for-now-2018-05-21).
France's CAC 40 index rose 0.4% to 5,637.51. Germany's stock market was closed for Whit Monday.
The euro fell to $1.1760 from $1.1771 from on Friday. The pound fell to $1.3412 and traded around its lowest level since late December.
What is driving the market?
Traders in Europe were weighing the encouraging news in the U.S.-China trade spat against concerns over political developments in Italy.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that the U.S. administration would put the trade war with China "on hold" (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mnuchin-china-trade-war-on-hold-while-deal-hammered-out-2018-05-20) while the two countries work on a deal to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with the Chinese. Meanwhile, China agreed to buy more U.S. products (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/china-balks-at-specific-targets-for-reducing-trade-surplus-with-us-2018-05-19) to narrow the trade gap, but held off from specifying a dollar amount.
Worries over a full-blown trade war between the world's two largest economies have put pressure on markets recently, on fears it would slow global growth.
Italy in focus
In Italy, the country's two biggest populist parties agreed on their proposed government cabinet at the weekend. They are expected to present their candidate for prime minister to President Sergio Mattarella on Monday. Depending on how this is received, Mattarella may announce a new government the same day.
Read:'Greek-like crisis' fears hang over Italy's markets as populists ready government (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/greek-like-crisis-fears-hang-over-italys-markets-as-populists-ready-government-2018-05-21)
If it takes office, the coalition looks set on a collision course with the European Union, having promised to challenge Brussels's budget guidelines and rules on immigration.
The two coalition parties have also vowed to increase fiscal spending and cut taxes--moves some worry could throw the Italian economy into disarray and create a new sovereign debt crisis.
A failure by Italy to stick to the EU's financial rules could threaten stability of the entire eurozone monetary union, France's economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, warned on Sunday.
The yield on 10-year Italian government bonds soared 18 basis points to 2.398%, jumping to its highest level since March 2017, according to Tradeweb.
What are strategists saying?
"The continued buoyancy in European markets is being helped in no small part by the weakness in both the euro and the pound against the U.S. dollar, while concerns about an escalation in tensions between China and the U.S. appear to have been deferred in the short term after progress in trade talks at the weekend," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note.
Check out:'Sense of relief in equity markets is palpable'--analysts on U.S.-China trade truce (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sense-of-relief-in-equity-markets-is-palpable-analysts-assess-us-china-trade-truce-2018-05-21)
Shares of AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) (AZN.LN) rose 3.4% after the drug giant said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Lokelma (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/astrazenecas-lokelma-gets-fda-approval-2018-05-21) for the treatment of adults with hyperkalemia.
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG.LN) (IAG.LN) added 1.6% after reports the British Airways-parent is planning to make a EUR1.52 billion offer for Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/iag-plans-to-offer-152-bln-for-norwegian-report-2018-05-21)(NAS.OS). Norwegian Air's shares weren't trading because the Oslo bourse was closed for Whit Monday.
Ryanair Holdings PLC (RYAAY) (RYAAY) rose 5.1% even after the budget airline warned on 2019 profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ryanair-warns-on-2019-profit-over-fares-oil-costs-2018-05-21) due to higher oil prices and pressure on fare prices.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 21, 2018 12:09 ET (16:09 GMT)Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.