By Peter Nurse
Investing.com – European stock markets are set to edge higher Friday, helped by gains in Asia overnight and better-than-expected bank earnings in both the U.K. and France.
At 02:35 ET (0735 GMT), the contract traded 9 points, or 0.1% higher. France’s were flat, while the contract in the U.K. rose 18 points, or 0.2%. Futures on the pan-eurozone index, the , gained 2 points, or less than 0.1%.
China’s Hubei province, the region at the epicenter of the coronavirus, reported almost 5,000 new cases, suggesting the surge to nearly 15,000 reported a day earlier was down to a new method for counting infections. The overall death toll in China now comes in at 1,380, while total cases topped 63,000.
British banking group RBS (LON:) and France’s Credit Agricole both reported earnings significantly above exepectations early Friday, prompting it to announce a special dividend after group net profit soared to 4.2 billion pounds.
Across the Channel, France’s Credit Agricole (PA:) also posted strong earnings, bolstered by another good quarterly performance from asset management subsidiary Amundi, Europe’s largest fund manager.
German payments company Wirecard (DE:) meanwhile reiterated its guidance for core profits of 1-1.12 billion euros ($1.08-$1.21 billion) this year, implying growth of 34%, after notching another solid rise in earnings and revenue, despite the ongoing controversy over its accounting practices.
There was worse news from Renault (PA:), however, which posted an annual loss of 141 million euros ($153 million) – its first in 10 years – cut its dividend for 2019 and warned that auto demand remained volatile. This follows Nissan, of which Renault is a major shareholder, cutting its annual profit forecast and stating it would not pay a dividend in the second half of the year.
News surrounding the Covid-19 virus outbreak continues to keep markets on edge, although officials tried to play down a big jump in China’s count of patients and victims this week.
The World Health Organization said that reflects a decision by authorities there to reclassify a backlog of suspected cases by using patients’ chest images, and is not necessarily the “tip of an iceberg” of a wider epidemic.
Still, doubts remain over the accuracy of these figures, with the White House calling on Beijing to be more transparent over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
At 2:10 AM ET (0710 GMT), China’s benchmark Shanghai index traded 0.4% higher, the in Hong Kong up 0.3%, while the in South Korea closed 0.5% higher. Japan’s bucked the trend, as it closed 0.7% lower, not helped by the news of the first coronavirus death in the country.
In economic news, growth figures for the eurozone as a whole are scheduled for release Friday, with the fourth-quarter GDP figure due at 5:00 AM ET (1000 GMT). The German release, earlier Thursday, came in flat on the quarter, instead of the 0.1% gain expected, and doesn’t bode well for the broader number.
Elsewhere, the oil market traded in a calm fashion Friday, with all eyes on Russia to see whether it agrees to go along with the rest of the OPEC bloc and participate in deeper production cuts.
AT 2:10 AM ET (0710 GMT), futures traded 0.1% higher at $51.48 a barrel and the international benchmark contract was flat at $56.34. Additionally, fell 0.1% to $1,578.15/oz while traded at $1.0840, just off the $1.0828 low seen over night, the lowest level since early 2017.