European shares gain ahead of business activity data

European stock markets inched higher on Thursday following a bunch of better-than-expected quarterly earnings reports, even as investors braced for worsening business activity data with the coronavirus outbreak battering the global economy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (STOXX) was up 0.3% at 0705 GMT, recovering for a second straight day after a historic collapse in oil prices sparked a selloff at the start of the week.

Kicking off the first-quarter earnings season for the big European lenders, Credit Suisse Group AG (S:CSGN) posted a 75% jump in profit, but cautioned the pandemic could impact performance in coming quarters. Its shares rose 2.5%.

The STOXX 600 has bounced this month after hitting eight-year lows in March as unprecedented global stimulus and signs of easing in the coronavirus outbreak brought back bargain hunters.

However, analysts have warned against a quick recovery as the damage from a near shutdown in economic activity piles up. Surveys on Europe’s manufacturing and services sector due later in the day are expected to mirror dismal readings from Asia.

SKF (ST:SKFb), the world’s biggest maker of ball bearings, jumped 7.5% to the top of the STOXX 600 after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter operating earnings.

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