This content is not available in your region

Defensive stocks, 'Santa Rally' prop up European shares

Defensive stocks prop up European shares
Defensive stocks prop up European shares   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021
By Reuters

By Anisha Sircar

– European shares edged up to a five-week high on Tuesday, taking heart from Wall Street hitting record highs overnight, even as Omicron worries remained with France tightening curbs and COVID-19 cases surging in Spain and Britain.

The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 0.6%, after adding 0.6% in its previous session, to notch a more than one-month high.

Risk appetite remains strong into the year-end, according to analysts, despite the threat of the Omicron coronavirus variant hampering a global economy already tackling slowing growth, supply bottlenecks and soaring prices.

The STOXX 600 is eyeing its second straight session of gains in the final week of 2021 after adding 2.6% in December so far, on track for its best month since August.

“Given rich valuations after an enthused, if not euphoric, bull run in 2021, it is not unreasonable to propose that this Santa Rally is clearing a higher bar,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank.

Defensive stocks including healthcare and industrials led gains, with almost all sectors trading in positive territory.

Healthcare stocks rose 0.8% to their highest in nearly three months, and were eyeing their biggest two-day gain in more than a week. The sector has added 25% this year, outperforming the benchmark’s 22% so far.

Spain’s coronavirus infection rate exceeded 1,000 cases per 100,000 people for the first time on Monday, stoked by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

While England will not get any new COVID-19 restrictions before the end of 2021, the French government said it would tighten measures, though there will be no curfew for New Year’s Eve. The blue-chip CAC 40 rose 0.6% in early trade.

The rapid rise of Omicron cases could dampen, if not derail, central banks’ plan for policy tightening into the next year, Varathan added.

Shares of Italy’s Alerion Clean Energy advanced 4.4% on reports its controlling family could sell a stake of up to 43% in the renewable energy operator in a deal worth around 800 million euros.

Swiss specialty chemicals maker Clariant said it will purchase assets from German competitor BASF in North America in a $60 million deal that will help grow its sustainable business. BASF and Clariant shares rose 1.0% and 0.6% respectively.

Telecom Italia climbed 0.6% after an Italian ministry said it would use a proposal presented by a consortium that includes the company as a blueprint in the national cloud tender it plans to launch in the first weeks of 2022.