European shares slide on the week as lockdowns dull recovery hopes

BRUSSELS - Some strong earnings helped European stocks end higher on Friday, but they posted their sharpest weekly and monthly declines since a brutal selloff in March, as a new round of coronavirus lockdowns dampened prospects for a sustained economic recovery.

Gains in energy major Total and some Spanish banks after upbeat results boosted the pan-European index which finished a volatile session up 0.2%.

Data showing the euro zone economy rebounded more strongly than expected also helped prop up markets, but fears that the recovery would be cut short as countries reintroduce restrictions to stem a second wave of the pandemic kept gains in check.

With Spain, one of Europe's worst COVID-19 hot spots, declaring a state of emergency until early May, and Germany and France reimposing tight restrictions this week, the STOXX 600 lost more than 5% on the week, pushing the monthly performance into negative territory.

“After the drubbing it took earlier in the week, Europe is managing to avoid any bigger losses,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trader IG.

“Better GDP figures might be helping ... but it is more likely due to a grateful realization that even if Q4 is absolutely dire, the ECB will be along in due course with some form of rescue program.”

On Thursday, the central bank gave its clearest signal yet that it will ease policy in December to help the economy through the health crisis.

Heading into the week of U.S. Presidential elections, a slide in Wall Street's big tech stocks after earnings overnight also weighed on global sentiment, with Europe's tech sector slipping 0.5%.

Apple suppliers ASM International, Dialog Semiconductor and STMicroelectronics fell between 1.2% and 1.7% after the late launch of new 5G iPhones caused customers to put off buying new devices.

Spain's blue-chip IBEX was supported by better-than-expected earnings from lenders Banco Sabadell and BBVA.

French oil and gas producer Total rose 2.8% after it maintained its dividend despite a sharp drop in third-quarter net profit.

Third-quarter earnings season has been largely supportive, with 74% of the nearly half the STOXX 600 companies that reported so far topping profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

But video game maker Ubisoft slipped to the bottom of the STOXX 600 after it cut its outlook for the year as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the production of blockbuster games Far Cry 6 and Rainbow Six Quarantine.

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