STOXX 600 closes second-straight quarter with gains

By Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) -Europe’s STOXX 600 closed at a record high on Thursday, finishing its second-straight quarter in gains, with retailer JD Sports notching its strongest day in over four years after reiterating its annual profit forecast.

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 0.2% up, closing a week that was marked by four range-bound sessions ahead of a holiday extended weekend.

The benchmark index finished its second straight quarter of gains with a 7% rise, fuelled by optimism around imminent interest rate cuts and a rally in technology stocks on the back of artificial intelligence fervour.

The index also closed its fifth-straight month higher, ending March with a 3.7% advance.

“In the first part of the year, investors were concentrating on few stocks, but now that is broadening,” said Nadege Duffose, global head of multi-asset at Candriam.

Duffose added that more cyclical sectors such as industrials and banking were much stronger than expected as investors were less worried about a recession and are confident that central banks will pivot this year.

The industrial goods and services sector gained 11% in the first three months of the year, while eurozone banks rose 17.7%.

Market focus now squarely remains on the U.S. personal consumption expenditure data, due on Friday when markets are closed, to ascertain the Federal Reserve’s timing of rate cuts, potentially setting the tone for other central banks.

JD Sports, which sells Adidas and other sports brands, surged 15.6% to the top of STOXX 600 as the sportswear retailer said its pre-tax profit for the year ahead was in line with its guidance. Shares of Adidas added 1.1%.

The broader retail sector led sectoral gains with a 1.4% rise.

Oil and gas shares also aided gains, up 0.7% tracking higher crude prices as investors anticipated tighter supplies given the OPEC+ producer alliance is widely expected to stay the course on its current production cuts. [O/R]

On the day’s data front, German retail sales fell unexpectedly in February, while the number of unemployed people in the country rose less than expected in March. The DAX 40 index climbed 0.2%.

Among other stocks, Millicom rose 3.5% after JP Morgan upgraded the Swedish telecom group to “overweight” from “neutral”.

Casino slumped 63.4% after the French food retailer completed its financial restructuring and said a new leadership team formed around Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky was taking control.

Soitec dropped 20.6% to the bottom of the benchmark index after the French semiconductor materials supplier said it expects flat revenue in 2025 and flagged high inventory levels for its RF-SOI technology.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala, Sohini Goswami and Nick Zieminski)


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