European shares gain after banks jump on Spanish merger talks By Reuters

European shares gain after banks jump on Spanish merger talks

© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt

By Ambar Warrick

(Reuters) – European shares overcame early losses on Friday, with bank stocks leading gains on merger talks between two major Spanish lenders, while markets bet on the European Central Bank maintaining easy monetary policy at a meeting next week.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index () rose 0.5% after falling as much as 1% at the open. It had marked its worst session in more than a month on Thursday after a rout in U.S. technology stocks spread to other sectors and markets.

Spanish banks Bankia (MC:) and Caixabank (MC:) both marked double-digit gains after they said they were considering a merger to create the biggest lender in Spain.

Caixabank topped the bank index () — which outperformed its European peers — while bolstering the Spanish benchmark (). The stock was also the biggest gainer on the STOXX 600.

Still, the STOXX 600 has stayed well within a trading range seen since June, as a euro zone economic recovery appeared to be running out of steam. It was set to end the week a shade lower.

A batch of middling economic data this week bolstered expectations that the ECB would maintain an accommodative stance to bolster inflation, in line with the U.S. Federal Reserve.

“The Fed’s decision to move to an average inflation target has set the scene… given the still high level of uncertainty surrounding any economic outlook, the ECB is highly unlikely to change its policy stance at next week’s meeting,” Carsten Brzeski, chief economist, eurozone and global head of macro at ING wrote in a note.

With European interest rates in negative territory, the ECB has undertaken massive bond-buying programs this year to boost liquidity through the coronavirus crisis.

Investors now eye U.S. payroll data, due later in the day, to gauge the pace of the country’s economic recovery, with Wall Street futures trading negative after Thursday’s massive losses.

Technology shares () inched higher after posting their worst session in more than four months in the previous session.

Real estate stocks () were among the few losing sectors for the day, led by Germany’s Vonovia (DE:) after it announced a 1-billion euro ($1.18 billion) capital raise.

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