European stocks struggle higher amid earnings and mixed growth, while U.S. futures head south

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EUROPE MARKETS

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European stocks inched up on Friday, as AstraZeneca shares rose on positive results as a barrage of companies reported, while investors also weighed up mixed growth data from the region. U.S. stocks futures tilted to the downside. Tobacco makers were also moving higher.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.2% to 439.74, with the index up just over 2% as the month of April winds down. The German DAX rose 0.5%, the French CAC 40 was flat, and the FTSE 100 index was up 0.1%. The pound and euro slipped slightly against a higher dollar

U.S. stock futures were pointing south, led by Nasdaq-100 futures after shares of micromessaging service Twitter plunged in late trading as user numbers disappointed. The S&P 500 finished at an all-time high on Thursday after upbeat results from technology giants Apple and Facebook as well as strong growth data.

Data from China showed manufacturing and nonmanufacturing purchasing managers indexes for April expanding, but well short of hopes, with a global chip shortage weighing in part on manufacturers.

European economic data showed France’s economy grew 0.4% in the first quarter of the year, despite the tightening of restrictions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Germany’s economy declined 1.7%, while the Spanish and Italian economies contracted 0.5% and 0.4%, respectively.

Another barrage of earnings rolled out, with shares of heavily weighted AstraZeneca climbing nearly 3%, after the drug company reported higher sales and earnings for the first quarter, and backed its 2021 outlook. Sales of key cancer drugs helped offset a hit to earnings over the development of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Signify led the Stoxx 600 gainers, with shares up nearly 6% after the Dutch lighting company reported a 97% rise in net profit for the first quarter of the year. Sales were lifted by the connected-home category and a recovery in China, as well as improvements in other regions.

The tobacco sector, another heavyweight, was also supporting the Stoxx 600, with shares of British American Tobacco and Imperial Brands up 2% each after media reports said Kenneth Dart, a Cayman Islands-based billionaire, has taken 7% and 3% stakes in those companies, respectively.

Several banks reported, with shares of Barclays dropping 5%. The U.K. bank beat first-quarter expectations, helped by a sharp drop in impairment charges, but net interest income fell.

BNP Paribas reported forecast-beating first-quarter net profit, helped by strong activity at its investment bank and falling provisions. But shares of Paris’ biggest lender by assets slipped 1.6%.

Spanish lender Banco de Sabadell reported a drop in first-quarter net profit as a decline in provisions to cover potential loan losses failed to offset a revenue decrease. Sabadell said its cost-savings plan, which includes an 11% cut in head count, will boost earnings from the second quarter onward. Shares of the Spanish bank rose 4%.

Swiss Re said it swung to a profit in the first quarter, as losses linked to COVID-19 and natural disasters were offset by strong underlying performance in all businesses. Shares of the Swiss reinsurer climbed 3%.

Food and beverage company Nestlé said it has reached a deal with private equity group KKR & Co. to buy core brands of The Bountiful Company for $5.75 billion. The deal, which should be completed in the second half of the year, will expand Nestlé’s health and nutrition portfolio. Shares rose 0.6%.

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