European shares hold near peaks; travel stocks shine on recovery prospects
(Reuters) -European stocks remained near record highs on Wednesday, with investors holding off on taking big bets ahead of a policy decision from the European Central Bank and a U.S. inflation reading later this week.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed 0.1% higher, but stayed just short of a record high of 455.66 hit in the previous session.
Air France KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways owner IAG climbed about 3% each after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was easing travel recommendations on 110 countries and territories.
The wider travel and leisure index rose 0.9% as many European economies charted their way out of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Still, worries about rising inflation remained on investors’ minds after data earlier showed China’s factory gate prices rose at their fastest annual pace in over 12 years in May, driven by surging commodity prices.
Big UK-listed miners such as Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Group fell more than 2% each, pulling down London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 by 0.2%.
“Years like 2021 that have enjoyed strong gains for the first five months of the year don’t tend to see much summer volatility, but instead drift slightly higher until Q4, so if history is any guide, 2021’s quiet nature seems set to continue,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.
The focus will be on the U.S. consumer prices data on Thursday, a reading that could influence market expectations on ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting next week about the U.S. central bank tapering its massive bond purchases programme.
Despite an economic recovery underway and price pressures rising, the ECB is likely to say that it will maintain the current pace of bond purchases at its policy meeting on Thursday.
“Inflation is creating uncertainty about what central banks will do or say going forward,” said Emmanuel Cau, European equity strategist at Barclays.
“We think central banks will be patient, but we also believe that an adjustment in communication about inflation and policy changes will start in summer.”
Spanish retail giant Inditex reversed early gains made after beating first-quarter net profit expectations. Its shares were down more than 2.2%.
French food group Danone slipped 0.9% after RBC downgraded the stock to “underperform”.
Oslo-based salmon farmer SalMar fell 5.3% to the bottom of the STOXX 600 after it completed a private placement deal.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Jonathan Oatis