European shares gain on oil rebound, hopes of stimulus

April 22, 2020 3:23 AM

By Sagarika Jaisinghani and Susan Mathew

(Reuters) - A rebound in oil prices and hopes of more stimulus lifted European shares on Wednesday, even as investors remained cautious about a swift recovery as more companies issued worrying financial forecasts.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> finished up 1.8% after tumbling more than 3% on Tuesday following a historic collapse in oil prices.

Oil prices rose on the prospect of pledges of extra output cuts, and optimism from the recovery spilled in to most other commodity markets.

BP Plc (NYSE: BP) and Royal Dutch Shell along with France's Total surged between 4.8% and 6.8%, helping the regional energy index <.SXEP> make up most of its losses this week.

Along with a more than 3% jump in global miners BHP and Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO), London's FTSE 100 <.FTSE> surged 2.3%.

Italy's main index <.FTMIB> ended 1.9% higher after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy is likely to start easing its coronavirus lockdown from May 4.

The benchmark STOXX 600 has bounced about 21% from a March low, powered by aggressive global stimulus, and all eyes are now on a European Union summit on Thursday to discuss using a joint long-term budget to restart economic growth.

On the same day, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to clear a $484 billion relief package. Wall Street stock indexes bounced after the Senate approved the package on Tuesday.

"Unlike the previous financial crisis where debt sustainability and rollover risks were real, the eurozone seems to have ample financial firepower to manage the market risks it is facing," said Richard Kelly, head of Global Strategy at TD Securities.

But the STOXX 600 still remains about 24% below its February record high as strict stay-at-home orders virtually shut down business activity and crush supply chains and consumer spending, foreshadowing a deep economic slump.

Graphic - Global stocks indexes three-month performance: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/nmovaeoavab/Global%20stock%20indexes%203-month%20performance.png

Gucci-owner Kering slumped almost 5% after saying sales were hit hard early in the coronavirus crisis due to the fashion group's reliance on Chinese customers and that it was premature to say how quickly China sales would rebound.

Analysts now estimate earnings at STOXX 600 companies to slide 37% in the second quarter and 27.6% in the third, quashing earlier expectations that an earnings recession would end in 2019.

"In general we still see markets as being a bit fragile here," said Graham Secker, chief European equity strategist at Morgan Stanley.

"As we go through the corporate earnings season, for an investor it's difficult because we don't know what the consensus is and how the numbers are necessarily perceived. We're trying to sniff out how corporates are thinking about the next 12-to-18 months rather than the next few weeks."

Banking shares <.SX7P> gained about 2.6%, even as the region's top lenders prepared to follow their American peers in setting aside billions to cover potential loan losses due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Roche Holding AG (NYSE: ROG) rose 2.7% as the Swiss drugmaker confirmed its 2020 sales and profit outlook amid rising demand for its new COVID-19 tests.

(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Kirsten Donovan)

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