European markets sluggish after Boris Johnson confirms next stage of UK reopening plan

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 18, 2021 - Alfresco dining in Old Compton Street, Soho as the lockdown eases. (Photo credit should read Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
People in England will soon be able to dine indoors from 17 May. Photo: Matthew Chattle/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

European stock markets were treading water on Monday as the UK received confirmation that it is set to move into the next stage of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown on 17 May.

In London, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was flat for most of the session, held back by a stronger pound, before dipping into the red in the afternoon. It closed 0.08% lower.

The French CAC (^FCHI) and the DAX (^GDAXI) in Germany both also finished flat after a muted session.

Over the weekend the UK PM said that England’s next stage of lockdown easing will go ahead as planned as the rate of COVID-19 infections in the country reaches its lowest level since September.

Brits will be allowed to dine and mix indoors in pubs and restaurants and cinemas, with limited international travel resuming also.

“The data reflects what we already knew; we are not going to let this virus beat us,” Johnson said in a statement.

“The road map remains on track, our successful vaccination program continues — more than two-thirds of adults in the UK have now had the first vaccine — and we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly.”

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “Markets seem set fair as the reopening trade continues to reflect improving optimism on post-pandemic prospects."

Read more: UK rebound shaves billions off corporate borrowing bill

On Monday, mining companies also helped to lift London’s benchmark index thanks to the boom in commodity prices such as copper, iron ore, nickel, zinc, and palladium. 

"There could be a lot of speculative buying and trading pushing commodities higher but for now there does still seem to be a lot of momentum behind the trade and reasons to think fundamentals will continue to support," said Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com.

Meanwhile, airline and travel companies suffered slightly as the UK government's "green list" of travel destinations failed to cheer up investors.

The list consisted of Portugal, Gibraltar, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, plus several small remote islands that are British Overseas Territories.

Travellers returning from any of these countries will not need to quarantine, and will only be required to take one post-arrival test

Watch: Bookings for holidays to Portugal go 'through the roof' - but angry airlines criticise the list

Across the pond, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) was flat at the European close after opening slightly higher, while the Dow Jones (^DJI) edged 0.76%, adding to record highs achieved on Friday. It propelled above 35,000 points for the first time on Monday, a more than 4,400-point gain in the space of less than 4 and a half months. 

The Nasdaq (^IXIC), fell 1.25% as the rotation out of tech stock continues.

Hunter said: “In the year to date, the pace of progress has been rapid with a gap appearing between the two main indices and the previously firing technology stocks, which have been under some pressure given the switch out of growth into value.”

The Dow Jones is ahead by around 14%, the S&P 500 by 12% and the Nasdaq only by 6%.

Asian shares mainly rose overnight, cheered by the rally on Wall Street on Friday as a grim jobs report that missed estimates signalled to investors that interest rates will likely stay low, as well as interest rates.

In Japan, the Nikkei (^N225) climbed 0.55% while the Hang Seng (^HSI) dipped 0.20% and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) advanced 0.27%.

It comes despite a recent surge in coronavirus infections in Asia.

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