By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
European stocks ended slightly higher Friday, as big gains for Unilever PLC and Essentra PLC helped offset drops by Dutch storage company Royal Vopak NV and German insurer Allianz SE.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /quotes/zigman/2380150/delayed XX:SXXP +0.22% inched up less than 0.1% to close at 370.22, leaving the index with a 0.8% gain for the week. On Thursday, the pan-European benchmark lost 0.4%, closing lower for the first time in eight sessions.
Analysts have been sounding upbeat about European equities after the Stoxx 600 logged its highest close since December 2015 on Wednesday.
“The broader uptrend is intact thanks to renewed optimism about the global growth outlook and supportive bottom-up corporate earnings,” said Ian Williams, a Peel Hunt strategist, in a note Friday.
Shares in Anglo-Dutch consumer-products giant Unilever PLC /quotes/zigman/409909/delayed UK:ULVR +0.59% /quotes/zigman/202185/composite UN +1.43% /quotes/zigman/203077/composite UL +1.29% soared 13%, powered by U.S. packaged-foods heavyweight Kraft Heinz Co. /quotes/zigman/54335842/composite KHC +2.04% announcing that it made a merger proposal to Unilever that was declined.
Essentra PLC /quotes/zigman/378649/delayed UK:ESNT -0.60% finished 15% higher, even as the U.K. plastic and fiber products maker swung to a full-year pretax loss and cautioned that business conditions have worsened.
On the downside, shares in Royal Vopak /quotes/zigman/596707/delayed NL:VPK -0.31% slumped 7% after the provider of storage for the oil and chemicals industries said 2017 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization “ will not exceed the 2016 result .” The stock was the Stoxx 600’s biggest decliner.
On the economic-data front, the eurozone’s current account surplus narrowed in December from an all-time high the previous month, data from the European Central Bank showed Friday.
Investors on Friday also digested U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy press conference on Thursday, in which he said he “inherited a mess” at home and abroad, and blasted the news media.
National indexes: The U.K.’s FTSE 100 index /quotes/zigman/3173262/delayed UK:UKX -0.11% added 0.3% to end at 7,299.96.
Other movers: Segro PLC /quotes/zigman/560021/delayed UK:SGRO +0.55% gained 3.2%. The U.K.-based real estate trust that owns warehouses posted a drop in 2016 pretax profit, but said demand is holding up and hiked its dividend.
Allianz SE /quotes/zigman/143088/delayed DE:ALV 0.00% closed 1.9% lower as a morning advance evaporated. The rally had come as the German insurance company raised its dividend, launched a buyback program and outlined the continued recovery of its U.S. fund manager Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco.