London May 25
European markets edged higher on Friday, though gains were limited by concerns over the lack of a concrete plan to keep Greece in the currency union.
A survey showing a rise in consumer confidence in Germany helped market sentiment as it suggested the core of the European economy remains relatively stable despite the financial turmoil and uncertainty over the region’s 17-country monetary union.
Sharp losses earlier in the week have also encouraged some investors to hunt for cheapened stocks before the weekend, but gains appeared fragile as the outlook for Europe remains dark.
The likelihood of Greece leaving the euro has been growing steadily since early May, when political parties opposed to the terms of the country’s financial rescue made huge gains in an otherwise inconclusive election.
A new ballot planned for next month could see the anti-bailout political parties gain power, which would raise the likelihood of the country leaving the euro.
European leaders say they want Greece to stay in the euro, but have so far shown no willingness to compromise on its austerity terms. The uncertainty of a Greek exit from the euro will hang over European markets at least until the elections on June 17.
"Any rallies are likely to prove short-lived," said Kintai Cheung, analyst at Credit Agricole CIB.
Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat at 5,348.32 by late morning in London, while Germany’s DAX rose 0.9 percent to 6,375.13. France’s CAC-40 was up 0.3 percent at 3,047.17.
Spain’s Ibex was underperforming the wider region, falling 0.4 percent as investors waited for bailed-out lender Bankia to announce how much more money it needs from the government. Its shares were suspended from trading, having lost over 7 percent the previous day.
The euro rose 0.4 percent to $1.2589 after touching a 22-month low of $1.2515 earlier in the week.
Wall Street was expected to edge up on the open, with Dow futures up 0.1 percent and S&P 500 futures 0.3 percent higher.
In Asia, media reports that some of China’s biggest banks will miss their annual lending targets for the first time in seven years rattled markets. Hesitation to take out loans suggests companies are delaying investment due to uncertainty about the economic outlook.
While Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose marginally to 8,568.08, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.3 percent to 18,609.85. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4 percent to 1,821.98 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 4,033.60.
Chinese economic growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter and factory output in April grew at its slowest pace since the 2008 crisis, raising the threat of job losses.
On Thursday, a private survey of Chinese manufacturers showed activity weakened further in May. The reports on the slowdown in bank lending were another sign that China’s slowdown could be sharper than anticipated.
"This could also pressure China to take action as soon as possible. With this in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised to see China announce some new investment projects soon," said Stan Shamu of IG Markets in Melbourne.
In energy markets, the contract for oil for July delivery was up 46 cents to $91.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 76 cents to settle at $90.66 in New York on Thursday.
The dollar dipped to 79.53 yen from 79.58 yen late Thursday in New York.