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European Stocks Higher; China Rate Cut, UK Retail Sales Help

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By Peter Nurse

Investing.com - European stock markets traded higher Friday, ending the week on a positive note with investors buoyed by strong U.K. retail sales data as well as China cutting a key lending benchmark.

By 4:05 AM ET (0805 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 1.3% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.9%, and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 climbed 1.5%.

European equities received a boost after China cut its five-year loan prime rate by 15 basis points earlier Friday, the largest cut on record, and comes as Beijing seeks to revive the troubled housing sector to prop up the second-largest economy in the world.

China's economy, a key global growth driver, is widely expected to shrink this quarter from a year earlier, compared with first quarter's 4.8% growth, with the property sector seen as a key drag on growth on the back of COVID-related mobility restrictions.

Adding to the positive tone was the news that U.K. retail sales rose 1.4% on the month in April, in contrast to expectations for a further 0.2% decline, as a result of higher spending on alcohol and tobacco in supermarkets as well as stronger clothing sales.

That said, market research firm GfK said U.K. confidence is now at an all-time low despite the fact that unemployment is at a 50-year low, due to rampant inflation.

Further evidence of this emerged Friday as German factory gate prices rose again in April, climbing 2.8% on the month, a hefty jump of 33.5% on the year.

In the corporate sector, Richemont (SIX:CFR) stock slumped over 10% after the Swiss luxury goods group said discussions about its "Luxury New Retail" partnership were still ongoing even as it reported strong American demand for its jewellery and watches.

Zurich Insurance (SIX:ZURN) stock fell 0.4% after the Swiss insurer announced Friday it has agreed to sell its Russian business to members of the local team, becoming the latest company to announce its exit from the Russian market.

Oil prices edged lower Friday as concerns about weaker economic growth eclipsed expectations of a demand rebound in China as the world's top crude importer eased some COVID-19 lockdowns.

The crude market is on course to end the week on a negative note as investors, worried about rising inflation and more aggressive action from central banks, have been reducing exposure to riskier assets.

By 4:05 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% lower at $109.45 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.3% to $111.76.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,842.86/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% lower at 1.0570.

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