European markets close higher as U.S. data boosts recovery hopes

European markets closed higher on Friday, hitting record highs as global stocks take heart from strong economic data out of the U.S.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended up 0.57%, passing Thursday’s intraday record high. Financial services stocks added 1.3% to lead gains as almost all sectors and major bourses entered positive territory.

Global equities are heading for a seventh consecutive day of gains after first-time jobless claims in the U.S. fell to a new pandemic low of 406,000, according to Labor Department data on Thursday, delivering a positive indication of the health of the recovery in the world’s largest economy.

Asian stocks also climbed in Friday’s trade, led by a gain of more than 2% for Japan’s Nikkei 225, while U.S. stocks rose amid growing optimism over the U.S. economic recovery.

Investors are also monitoring negotiations in Washington over an infrastructure spending package aimed at further bolstering the recovery. Senate Republicans presented a $928 billion counteroffer to President Joe Biden on Thursday, well below the White House’s latest $1.7 trillion proposal.

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Back in Europe, euro zone economic sentiment climbed more than expected in May to notch a three-year high, data showed Friday, with the European Commission’s index rising to 114.5 points from 110.5 in April. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 112.1.

The French economy contracted by 0.1% in the first quarter to slide into a technical recession, with final data on Friday revising down a previous estimate of a 0.4% expansion on the back of weak construction activity.

The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization will investigate Belarus over its forced grounding of a Ryanair passenger plane in order to arrest a dissident journalist, a move that triggered global outrage.

Meanwhile, Russia has blocked airspace to Air France and Austrian Airlines after the two carriers altered their flight plans to avoid its ally Belarus in protest at the government’s actions.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the full lifting of England’s coronavirus restrictions on June 21 may be delayed as cases in the country of the Covid variant first detected in India doubled over the past week.

Oil major Total holds its annual general meeting on Friday, with the group proposing to change its name to TotalEnergies to signal its move toward cleaner energy sources, while facing pressure over its climate plan.

In terms of individual share price movement, Luxembourgish telecoms company SES climbed more than 5.4% to lead the Stoxx 600, while at the bottom of the index, Spain’s Banco de Sabadell fell over 6.5% after releasing its three-year strategic plan.

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