All major US stock indexes finished slightly above the flatline on Friday amid mixed corporate earnings results. Meanwhile, investors were cautious about the future of the Federal Reserve’s policy path. Procter & Gamble gained 3.5% on upbeat profit results, while HCA Healthcare jumped 3.9% after raising its guidance forecast. CSX added 3.3% after the company’s first-quarter results topped expectations. Still, this week, dismal quarterly results from Tesla and AT&T and data pointing to a further slowdown in the labor market continued to weigh on investor sentiment. On the macro front, US business activity accelerated to an 11-month high in April, easing some concerns that the world's largest economy is on the brink of a recession. Considering the week, the Dow lost 0.3% and snapped its four-week win streak, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were down by 0.1% and 0.4%, respectively.
European equity markets closed higher on Friday and booked a fifth consecutive week of gains. The benchmark Stoxx 600 added 0.3% to 469, the highest closing level since February 2022. Healthcare stocks advanced 1.8% while miners fell almost 4%. The German DAX rose 0.5%, with SAP up more than 5% after the software firm reported higher-than-expected revenue and operating profit. The latest data showed the service activity growth rates in the Eurozone accelerated more than expected in April, while the regions' manufacturing sectors remained under pressure amid a slump in demand for goods. In other corporate headlines, Mercedes-Benz Group AG posted Q1 group adjusted return on sales of 14.8%, above market expectations, boosted by higher prices and strong demand, and luxury eyewear maker EssilorLuxottica SA posted a rise in Q1 revenues on a rebound in China-led growth.
Equities in London finished Friday's session virtually flat, with the benchmark FTSE 100 closing slightly above the 7,900 mark, as gains in the healthcare and utilities sectors offset losses in the heavyweight materials. Investors continued looking to this earnings season for signs about the global economy's health while contemplating the future path of interest rate rises. On the macro front, discouraging retail sales data showing a bigger-than-expected slowdown in consumer spending by 0.9% in March rattled investors. On the corporate side, Dowlais Group rallied more than 4% to be among the top gainers. On the other hand, Anglo American and Rio Tinto plunged almost 6% each. Still, the export-oriented index gained nearly 1% this week, posting a fifth consecutive weekly gain.
The CAC 40 hit another record high at 7,577 on Friday, with shares of LVMH and Hermès also topping record levels of €901.1 and €2,003.5, respectively. Essilor was the top performer (+6.3%), after the company reported a better-than-expected 9.7% revenue growth in Q1. Shares of L'Oréal also surged 3% and hit a near 23-year high of €442.6, extending a 2.1% surge on Thursday, after reporting a 13% growth in Q1 sales. Stocks of Veolia gained 1.1% after a Deutsche Bank analyst upgraded the company to 'Buy' from 'Hold'. On the other hand, shares of ArcelorMittal dropped 3.8%, as iron ore prices were at their lowest level since December amid weak demand in China and still ample supply. Traders were also digesting fresh PMIs for the current month: the services sector grew more than expected in April, but manufacturing continued to contract in France, Germany and the Euro Area. The major stock index in France was up 0.8% in the third week of April, notching its fifth weekly gain in a row.
The FTSE MIB index closed 0.4% higher at 27,645 on Friday, enough to notch a slight increase on the week with gains from banks and utilities as investors digested the latest economic data for hints on the extent of remaining tightening by the ECB. Private business activity in the Eurozone expanded at the fastest pace in 11 months according to PMI data, raising hopes that firms can weather the current high-interest rate environment. Banks extended their volatile momentum amid merger talks between key Italian lenders after the European Union proposed alternative banking resolution rules to prevent runs. Banco BPM added 4.3% while Finecobank and Banca Monte Paschi Siena advanced 1.8% each. On the other hand, Telecom Italia sank 4.3% amid speculation of disagreements with major shareholder Vivendi on the sale of its fixed-line assets to private equity firms.