European stock markets hit records as Dow rises for 8th straight day

US stocks mostly rose despite data showing a weakening in consumer sentiment amid inflation worries (SCOTT OLSON)
US stocks mostly rose despite data showing a weakening in consumer sentiment amid inflation worries (SCOTT OLSON)

Wall Street stocks largely shrugged off lackluster US consumer data on Friday, concluding a winning week mostly higher amid increased hopes of an easing in monetary policy.

Following an up day in Europe in which leading bourses hit all-time highs, the Dow rose for the eighth straight session in New York.

The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment tumbled 13 percent to 67.4 for April, its lowest mark since November, with more consumers expressing worries about inflation, unemployment and interest rates.

The data comes on the heels of an uptick in weekly US jobless claims released on Thursday.

Analysts have pointed to a tendency among investors to greet weaker data as boosting the odds of a Federal Reserve interest rate cut.

A note from Oxford Economics said the US labor market has been a "key pillar" of strength.

"So far, our conclusion is that the labor market is cooling from a rapid pace rather than about to enter a serious downturn that could derail the recovery," Oxford said.

European stock markets struck fresh record highs on growing hopes that central banks are close to cutting interest rates.

London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam all hit new heights, with shares also benefitting from strong first-quarter earnings.

"European markets are on the rise despite concerns that a resurgence in UK growth could yet hinder hopes for a dovish pivot from the Bank of England in the months ahead," noted Joshua Mahony, chief market analyst at Scope Markets.

Britain exited a shallow recession with better-than-expected growth in the first quarter, official data showed Friday, in a boost to embattled Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of the country's general election this year.

The Bank of England on Thursday signaled a rate cut this summer after keeping UK borrowing costs at the highest level in 16 years to tame inflation.

The European Central Bank is expected to cut its rates in June.

With Wall Street performing strongly Thursday, Asian investors pushed regional stocks higher ahead of the weekend.

Hong Kong continued an impressive run that has seen it enter a bull market after climbing more than 20 percent from its January lows.

The gains were boosted by news that city officials were considering a plan to exempt individuals from paying tax on dividends on mainland stocks bought through the Hong Kong exchange.

- Key figures around 2050 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 39,512.84 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 5,222.68 (close)

New York - Nasdaq Composite: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 16,340.87 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 8,433.76 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 8,219.14 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.5 percent at 18,772.85 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 5,085.08 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 38,229.11 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 2.3 percent at 18,963.68 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,154.55 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0772 from $1.0782 on Thursday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2525 from $1.2524

Dollar/yen: UP at 155.88 yen from 155.48 yen

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.06 from 86.09 pence

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 1.3 percent at $82.79 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.3 percent at $78.26 per barrel

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