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European stocks notch new highs as Daimler earnings lift carmakers

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Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew
·2-min read
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
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By Sruthi Shankar and Susan Mathew

(Reuters) -European stocks ended at a record high on Friday, marking its seventh straight week of gains, after strong U.S. and China economic data spurred optimism about a speedy global recovery, while upbeat results from Germany's Daimler boosted carmakers.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.8%. Leading regional peers, Germany's DAX gained 1.3% to hit an all-time high, while UK's FTSE 100 was up 0.5%, closing at over one-year highs.

Global stock markets scaled record highs after data showed China's economic recovery quickened sharply in the first quarter and U.S. retail sales rose by the most in 10 months in March.

"The good news continues to flow of both the corporate and economic fronts, after a very good start to the reporting season by the banks over the past few days. Now the focus becomes broader, taking in a wider range of sectors," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

German car and truck maker Daimler rose 2.7% as higher vehicle prices and strong demand in China helped it post a better-than-expected surge in quarterly operating profit.

The wider automobiles & parts index gained 2.1% to lead gains among European sectors. Data showed new car registrations jumped 87.3% in March in the European Union.

While the STOXX 600 marked its longest weekly winning streak in nearly three years, up 1%, moves this week have been tight-ranged, with most European bourses holding near pre-pandemic levels.

Analysts expect profit for STOXX 600 companies to jump more than 55% in the first quarter after a slide of nearly 40% in the same quarter last year, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Meanwhile, a Reuters poll of economists showed the euro zone economy will recover at a much weaker rate this quarter than expected only a month earlier, with a slower vaccine rollout among the biggest risks. Fitch on Friday said it could take at least a decade for Italy's debt-to-GDP ratio to return to its pre-COVID-19 level.

Bank of Ireland jumped 8.4% to the top of the STOXX 600 after it reached a deal with Belgian financial group KBC to explore the sale of most of KBC's Irish unit.

Lancome maker L'Oreal slipped 1.8% on disappointment at figures from the company's consumer products division despite overall strong group results.

Next week, eyes will be on the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday.

"The ECB will look through any temporary increases in headline inflation and will not accept any increases in bond yields unless they are the result of improved growth prospects," ING said in a note.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Jonathan Oatis)