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European stocks higher; ASOS soars despite revenue drop

Published 12/01/2023, 07:59 pm
© Reuters.

By Peter Nurse 

Investing.com - European stock markets traded higher Thursday, with investors focusing on more corporate earnings from the retail sector ahead of the release of key U.S. consumer price data.

At 03:35 ET (08:35 GMT), the DAX index in Germany traded 0.3% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.5% and the FTSE 100 in the U.K. climbed 0.4%.

European equities have started the new year on a positive note, with relatively strong performances by retailers Next (LON:NXT) and JD Sports Fashion (LON:JD) helping the tone, with the sector appearing to be turning the corner after a tricky 2022.

Continuing the theme, Tesco (LON:TSCO) and Marks and Spencer (LON:MKS), two of the U.K.'s biggest retailers, earlier Thursday both posted solid sales growth over the key Christmas trading period.

Both companies said food sales over the period were up by more than 10%, comfortably keeping pace with inflation, although, as with rival J Sainsbury (LON:SBRY) which reported on Wednesday, non-food sales grew by significantly less. 

On a less positive note, online fashion retailer ASOS (LON:ASOS) reported a 3% fall in revenue over the four months to the end of December, hurt by weaker demand and delivery disruption in its biggest market Britain.

That said, its stock climbed nearly 10% as an even weaker result had been factored in given strikes had affected Britain’s delivery network, and a tough comparison against last year when the pandemic favored online shopping.

There is little in the way of significant economic data scheduled in Europe Thursday, and all eyes will be on the December U.S. consumer price index later in the session.

Investors have been expecting the Federal Reserve to slow the pace of its interest rate hikes when it next meets in early February, but policymakers have been very keen to make clear that such a decision is data-dependent. With this in mind, this consumer price index will be a key gauge of their progress in reining in inflation. 

The headline figure is expected to rise 6.5% from a year ago, down from the 7.1% pace the prior month. For the month, inflation is expected to remain flat. Core CPI, which excludes food and fuel prices, is expected to read 5.7%, compared with 6% the month before, and 0.3% on the month, compared with 0.2% in November.

Oil prices edged lower Thursday, largely shrugging off a massive U.S. crude stockpile build, as optimism over China's demand outlook rises.

U.S. crude inventories rose by 18 million barrels last week, the biggest jump since February 2021, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

However, this has had only a minor impact as it followed the severe cold snap that impacted much of the U.S. Gulf Coast’s refining capacity. 

Additionally, a lot of the market’s attention is focused on the expected Chinese economic recovery, and thus increased oil demand, after the country reopened its international borders and ended its restrictive zero-COVID policy.

By 03:35 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.3% lower at $77.21 a barrel, while the Brent contract was 0.2% lower at $82.49. Both contracts have rallied over 5% so far this week.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,885.50/oz, while EUR/USD traded just lower at 1.0753.

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