European stocks rose amid optimism around a new US government stimulus and strong factory activity data out of the euro zone. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.5% just two points below its all-time high. The benchmark ended the first quarter with a 7.7% rise, its fourth straight quarter of gains.
Germany’s Dax rose 0.6% to hit a record high, while the UK’s FTSE 100 also gained 0.6%
Despite slow vaccination programmes and a third Covid-19 wave hitting several countries, European markets have recovered almost all of their losses from the pandemic on strong manufacturing activity and a comeback in stocks such as banks and energy.
Helping global sentiment further, US President Joe Biden unveiled a $2.3tr (£1.6tr, €1.9tr) spending plan that includes $621bn for transport infrastructure, plus investment in broadband, clean energy and semiconductor manufacture.
The US Dollar Index stood at 93.286 in early trades in Europe, close to a five-month high of 93.439 reached yesterday. The greenback gained 3.57% against the basket of six major currencies during the first quarter of 2021, its best quarterly performance since 2018.
Chip stocks, including those of ASML, ASM International, Infineon Technologies and BE Semiconductor Industries (Besi), all rose between 1.2% and 4% after US chipmaker Micron Technology issued a positive revenue forecast.
Meanwhile, British food delivery firm Deliveroo’s shares were down 0.8% after plunging by 30% in their trading debut yesterday, and France’s blue-chip CAC 40 fell after the latest national lockdown announcement.
Swiss lender Credit Suisse rose 2.5%, but was on track for its worst week since March 2020.
In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin maintained its firmness to trade at $58,721.