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European markets bring modest relief, euro sinks after weak German survey

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LONDON (Reuters) – European markets opened higher on Friday with most stock indexes rising modestly after a volatile week in which company earnings and growth worries hit stocks, though the euro sank after a weaker-than-expected German business survey.

The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Staff

Italian stocks .FTMIB led the bounce in equities, rallying hard after the country’s bond yields fell after a press report that EU Affairs Minister Paolo Savona is considering resigning over the government’s decision to challenge European Union budget rules.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.3 percent. Europe’s performance on Friday stood in contrast to Asia, where steep losses in Chinese markets hit stocks amid lingering trade war tensions and worries about global growth. [.EU]

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.23 percent as Chinese blue-chips .CSI300 tumbled 2 percent and the Shanghai Composite index .SSEC lost 2.2 percent.

Not all was cheerful in Europe though – German business surveys came in weaker than expected, pushing the euro to its lowest in three days.

Euro zone business growth was much weaker than expected this month as exports fell sharply, hurt by a slowing global economy and a United States-led trade war.

The disappointing readings will likely be of concern to policymakers at the European Central Bank who are expected to draw a line under their 2.6 billion euro asset purchase programme at the end of the year.

“The economy in the euro zone has cooled significantly over the past months and unless this is just a brief interlude the European Central Bank might be forced to stick to an expansionary monetary policy,” said Thu Lan Nguyen, a currency strategist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Purchasing manager indexes from the United States, due later in the day, will be watched for a reading on where global growth is headed.

The MSCI All-Country World Index .MIWD00000PUS of stocks was down 0.03 percent on the day, and set for a second week in the red.

Slideshow (2 Images)

U.S. equity futures were pointing to weakness on Wall Street when trading resumes Friday. S&P E-mini futures ESc1 were down 0.2 percent.

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DARKENING OUTLOOK

On Thursday, stock markets in Europe were hit by disappointing earnings on further signs that corporate profit growth is peaking globally.

Those earnings underscored the lingering anxiety among equity investors as trade tensions, slowing global investment and growth kept stock markets on the back foot after a difficult October. A draft deal between Britain and the European Union on future relations reached on Thursday did little to lighten the mood.

Daiwa analyst Chris Scicluna said: “Asian equity indices have largely picked up the baton of negativity from European markets yesterday.”

He noted investor apprehension was high before next week’s Buenos Aires bilateral between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and added: “Following VP Pence’s tough rhetoric at the APEC summit, making it clear that the Trump administration is in no hurry to end the trade war and calling on China to change its ways, that’s perhaps no surprise.”

In the currency market, the pound GBP= was down 0.2 percent, buying $1.2844 after rising more than 1 percent on the news of the draft agreement between Britain and the EU, which describes a close post-Brexit relationship. The agreement follows a draft treaty last week that set the terms for Britain’s departure from the EU in March.

But the deal faces a rocky ride once it reaches a deeply divided British parliament containing hardline eurosceptic and staunch pro-EU factions, and various shades of grey in-between.

The dollar weakened 0.08 percent against the yen to 112.84 JPY=. Against a basket of currencies, the greenback was down 0.04 percent. .DXY

China’s yuan CNY=CFXS fell to 6.9498 per dollar, with trade concerns weighing. The currency has also come under pressure in recent weeks in sympathy with falling Chinese rates, with yields on shorter-term Chinese government bonds below their U.S. counterparts.

In commodities markets, oil prices fell to their lowest since late 2017 in choppy trading, weighed down by an emerging crude supply overhang and a darkening economic outlook. O/R]

U.S. crude CLc1 was trading down 2.2 percent at $53.43 after coming within 5 cents of an October 2017 low reached earlier in the week. Brent crude LCOc1 futures were last down 0.7 percent at $62.12 a barrel.

Spot gold XAU= was down 0.3 percent at $1,223.24 per ounce.

Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Tom Finn and Sujata Rao in London, and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai

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