LONDON (ShareCast) - - US consumer confidence rises more than expected
- BoE policymaker dashes hopes of stimulus
- Italy offers aid to households and workers
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European equities ended the week on a high note as US consumer confidence rebounded to its highest level in almost six years.
Consumer sentiment in the world's biggest economy rose to 83.7 at the start of May from 76.4 in April, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading.
The figure, which beat economists' expectations for a reading of 78, was supported by high earners who felt upbeat about their current economic situation.
Americans are more positive as the job and housing markets begin to slowly regain momentum.
"Assuming no shocks to the current environment, the recovery in consumer buying expectations should have strong positive implications for the expected economic growth rebound later this year," Gennadiy Goldberg, US strategist at TD Securities, told the Financial Times.
Also making waves in the US, was news the Federal Reserve discussed the future possibility of removing monetary stimulus.
Three officials urged the US central bank to halt bond purchases over the next few months.
In the UK, Bank of England policymaker Martin Weale dashed hopes that incoming Governor Mark Carney will implement further monetary stimulus to lift the economy.
Weale said stimulus risked a damaging surge in inflation as prices have exceeded the central bank's 2.0% target for most of the past four years.
Italy reveals new economic measures
Italy's new government has announced €3.0bn in economic measures to offer relief to households and workers as the nation tackles its recession.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who was appointed last month, said an extra €1.0bn would be put into a wage-supplement programme. He also said an unpopular tax of primary residences would be suspended.
The announcement came as the new government took its first steps at implementing policy to boost the economy.
Letta said the planned reform would help households and the construction sector.
Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY.L - news) 's shares exceeded the 61.2p level which the government considers the break-even point for a sale of its stake in the company. It came as UBS (Xetra: UB0BL6 - news) lifted its rating for the global banking sector from 'underweight' to 'overweight'. Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS.L - news) topped the FTSE 100 following the upgrade.
Morrison Supermarkets (LSE: MRW.L - news) and Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF - news) surged after the two confirmed they were teaming up to launch Morrisons' first shopping website.
A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S gained as the container shipping company's Maersk Line unit posted a first quarter profit that beat analysts' predictions.
Intertek Group (Other OTC: IKTSF - news) tumbled after the consumer-goods testing company said that its operating-profit margin has narrowed from a year earlier.
Other asset classes mixed
The euro/dollar edged lower by 0.53% to the 1.2814 dollar mark.
Front month Brent crude futures rose by $0.327 to $104.120 per barrel on the ICE.