Europe Stocks Inch Higher, Shrugging Off Fresh Vaccine Jitters

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European shares ended slightly up, after briefly declining intraday following a U.S. recommendation to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index closed 0.1% higher as gains for retail and travel shares tempered declines in defensives such as utilities. Tech outperformed as semiconductor stocks benefited from a positive read-across from U.S. specialist chip firm Nvidia Corp. Miners climbed after China’s copper concentrate imports hit a record last month.

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Among individual stocks, Just Eat Takeaway.com NV gained 6.7% after the food-delivery firm announced a 79% rise in first-quarter orders. JD Sports Fashion Plc added 3% after the retailer’s full-year earnings beat analyst estimates.

While the Stoxx 600 has now recouped all of its losses from the pandemic, rising to a fresh record last week, market players are keeping an eye on vaccine developments and the threat from inflation. The earnings season kicking off this month is likely to provide triggers for further market moves, with analysts the most bullish in more than a decade.

Europe Stocks Inch Higher, Shrugging Off Fresh Vaccine Jitters

“Yields drifting higher again has the potential to take the sting out of the equity market once more,” said James Athey, a money manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. In terms of the latest company reporting period, the level of uncertainty is “incredibly high,” and volatility in stocks is a “more likely outcome than either up or down,” Athey said by phone.

Avanza Bank Holding AB rose 3.7% after the online broker reported preliminary 1Q numbers that surpassed analyst expectations. Shares of so-called pandemic winners were also stronger amid the concerns over vaccine safety.

Elsewhere, Babcock International Group Plc soared 32% as the U.K. engineering group announced a restructuring.

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