U.S. Markets

European shares eke out in directionless choppy session

LONDON (Reuters) - European stocks edged higher at the close of a choppy and directionless session where indexes hovered around the flotation mark in the lack of news about Sino/U.S. trade talk.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.2 percent after trading in the red for part of the day, extending a three-day rally into four straight days of gains.

“There seemed to be no overriding theme to Tuesday’s trading”, wrote Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex.

Noting buoyant U.S. family homes sales and positive data for the services sector, Stephane Ekolo, an equity strategist at Tradition in London, said “positive datapoint in the U.S. somehow gave a bit of respite”.

Equities also briefly perked up after euro-zone data showed business activity accelerated more than expected last month, helping offset downbeat news from China.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang cut the government’s 2019 growth target to 6.0-6.5 percent, as expected, and promised more stimulus, including cuts in taxes, increases in infrastructure investment, and lending to small firms.

Still, autos and suppliers were the worst performers, losing 0.5 percent.

It was also a bad day for European banks which lost 0.4 percent with shares in Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) falling more than 12 percent.

The share price falls followed a report by a collective of European news outlets called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which was based on what it said were leaked documents detailing transactions worth more than $470 billion sent in 1.3 million transfers from 233,000 companies.

Among individual movers, Eurofins fell close to 10 percent after the food and biopharma product testing firm said it would curb its M&A activity in a bid to shore up margins and cash flow.

Evonik shares rose 4.3 percent after the German chemicals group reported a slight rise in profits thanks to its coating additives and engineering plastics division.

Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Helen Reid and Andrew Cawthorne