European stocks edge higher as China’s growth beats forecasts

European equity markets edged higher on Monday as strong economic data from China vied with concerns over a double-dip recession in the UK and the eurozone.

Chinese markets had been lifted by news that the world’s second-biggest economy grew 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter — a faster rate than before the pandemic, and above expectations. Economic output expanded 2.3 per cent during the course of 2020, easily outstripping other big economies.

The CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed stock rose 1.1 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed 1 per cent higher.

“If market moves so far in January are a harbinger of the outlook . . . this could be a year for Chinese equities,” said Mobeen Tahir, associate director of research at WisdomTree. “China’s success in controlling the pandemic and putting the economic recovery back on track stands in stark contrast with other major economies.”

The CSI 300 is up almost 6 per cent this year while the region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 has risen 2.4 per cent, having ended Monday 0.2 per cent higher.

Elsewhere on the continent, Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax closed up 0.4 per cent, London’s FTSE 100 slid 0.2 per cent and the CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.1 per cent.

The pace of expansion in China’s output should feed through to a variety of industries, analysts said. “In regards to Europe, it’s particularly positive,” said Hani Redha, portfolio manager at PineBridge Investments, highlighting China’s reliance on sectors such as manufacturing and infrastructure, where faster growth bodes well for European stocks.

But the spread of new variants of Covid-19 — and the economic cost of extended lockdowns to control the virus — continue to whittle away positive sentiment generated by the rollout of vaccines.

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“The virus is continuing to spread, there’s just a little bit of a pause in the markets, as they take on how virulent this new strain is, and how long this is likely to go on for,” said Dean Cheeseman, portfolio manager at Janus Henderson.

Investors were weighing the prospect of vaccinations against the realities of new lockdowns, said Armin Peter, global head of debt syndicate at UBS. “The market has gone quite a way ahead of itself — I think now it’s trying to rebalance.”

US markets were closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

The oil market slid, with Brent crude, the international marker, dipping 0.3 per cent to $54.91 a barrel.

In Asia, Japan’s Topix shed 0.6 per cent, the Kospi 200 in South Korea fell 2.4 per cent, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia dipped 0.8 per cent.



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