ASX set to edge higher; BHP to report

By Ankika Biswas and Johann M Cherian

Europe’s benchmark stock index hit its highest in over two years on strength in healthcare stocks, while French and German shares lost some steam after scaling record highs last week as economic concerns weighed on sentiment.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed 0.2 per cent higher, gaining for the fourth day. Trade volumes were light, with Wall Street shut for a public holiday. The Australian sharemarket is set to rise, with futures at 4.56am AEDT pointing to a gain of 8 points, or 0.1 per cent, at the open. The ASX added 0.1 per cent on Monday. BHP is the highlight of earnings season on Tuesday.

The FTSE in London edged higher.
The FTSE in London edged higher.Credit: Bloomberg

Healthcare climbed 1 per cent to a near two-year high, led by AstraZeneca which jumped 3.2 per cent after a combination of its blockbuster cancer drug Tagrisso with chemotherapy to treat a type of lung cancer was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, basic resources fell 1 per cent as copper prices dropped after China held key rates on medium-term loans steady and markets focused on the country’s ailing property market.

France’s benchmark index was flat after the government lowered its 2024 GDP growth forecast to 1 per cent from 1.4 per cent as war in Ukraine and Gaza and a slowdown at top trading partners darkened the outlook.

The Bundesbank in a regular monthly report said Germany is likely in recession due to weak external demand, cautious consumers and stalling domestic investment. The benchmark DAX was down 0.2 per cent.

“Economic uncertainty will create market volatility, but markets are forward looking and the expectations of falling inflation, and in time, falling interest rates have provided a boost to stock markets,” said Emma Wall, head of investment analysis and research, Hargreaves Lansdown.

The STOXX 600 notched a fourth straight weekly gain on Friday, driven by optimism around robust corporate earnings and hopes of imminent rate cuts by the ECB.

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Over the course of this week, investors will monitor final inflation data and flash PMI readings for the euro zone and Germany’s fourth-quarter GDP to gauge the continent’s economic status.

Forvia slumped 12.7 per cent, reversing early gains. The world’s seventh-largest automotive supplier plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs in Europe over next five years.

Santander gained 1.8 per cent following a new share buyback programme and boosted dividend, helping Spain’s IBEX 35 rise 0.6 per cent.

Rheinmetall jumped 4.1 per cent on the top artillery producer’s plans to open an ammunition factory in Ukraine.

Bechtle shed 5.5 per cent after Barclays started coverage of the German IT provider with an “underweight” rating.

Telecom Italia gained 5.9 per cent after Bank of America upgraded the stock to “buy” from “hold”, pushing the telecommunication index to a near two-week high.

Currys soared 36.4 per cent as China’s JD.com said it is evaluating a possible offer for the British electricals retailer. London’s FTSE closed 0.2 per cent higher.

Reuters

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