Europe Markets Close Mixed as Treasury Yields Rise; FTSE 100 Climbs on UK Budget Speech

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  • U.S. bond yields rose after President Joe Biden said the country would have a large enough supply of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate every adult in the nation by the end of May.
  • U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced a further £65 billion worth of fiscal measures, bringing the government's total pandemic support to £407 billion.
  • Vivendi, Stellantis and Prudential were among the major corporates announcing their latest quarterly results.

LONDON — European stocks whipsawed Wednesday as investors monitored U.S. Treasury yield movement while reacting to earnings and the U.K.'s latest budget statement.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed flat, having earlier been up by as much as 0.7%. London's FTSE 100 index was the standout gainer, climbing 0.8% following British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak's budget speech.

In terms of sectors, autos added 2.6% on the back of an optimistic outlook from Stellantis, while utilities sank 2.6%.

Sentiment was shaken Wednesday as the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note climbed again, surpassing 1.47% after U.S. President Joe Biden said the country will have a large enough supply of coronavirus vaccines to inoculate every adult in the nation by the end of May — two months earlier than previously expected.

On Wall Street, tech stocks dragged down the S&P 500 amid rising bond yields, while names tied to an economic recovery provided the market with some support.

Back in Europe, Britain's finance minister announced Wednesday that U.K. corporation tax will increase to 25% in April 2023 as the government looks to restore public finances in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sunak announced a further £65 billion worth of fiscal measures for 2021/22, bringing the government's total response since the onset of the pandemic to £407 billion.

On the data front, IHS Markit's final euro zone composite PMI (purchasing managers' index) reading for February came in at 48.8, up from 47.8 in January and exceeding analyst expectations, but signaling that economic activity in the bloc remained in contraction.

"The Eurozone faces the possibility of lapsing back into recession – not that any prior 'recovery' has been especially meaningful," said VTB Capital Global Macro Strategist Neil MacKinnon.

"Recent incoming economic data show that recessionary risks are not just located in the debt-burdened southern bloc, but are also to be found in Germany, the leading creditor and trade surplus economy for the entire monetary union."

Earnings

Earnings on Tuesday came from Vivendi, Stellantis, Prudential and Persimmon.

Persimmon shares gained 6.8% after the company projected a full recovery in 2021 following last year's Covid-induced slump. British housebuilders received a boost from a new mortgage guarantee scheme announced in the U.K. Budget, sending shares of Bellway, Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey higher.

Stellantis, formed from the merger of Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler, announced that it will target an operating profit margin of between 5.5% and 7.5% in 2021 as the automobile industry recovers.

Stellantis shares fell slightly after having earlier gained 1% but led rivals Renault and BMW 5.2% and 4.9% higher, respectively.

British Airways parent IAG climbed 6.8% during afternoon trade amid promises of further business support from the British government. German transport firm Kuehne+Nagel jumped 7.1% to lead the Stoxx 600 after strong earnings.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, British insurer Hiscox sank more than 11.8% after swinging to a full-year loss as pandemic claims weighed.

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