Chinese Stimulus Prolongs Europe’s Party; Auto Parts Lead By

© Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith — Europe’s stocks briefly touched a new record high on Monday, as the latest shot of monetary stimulus in China circulated through the veins of the world’s financial markets, numbing fears of the Covid-19 virus.

The benchmark rose as high as 432.48 before retracing to be at 431.58 by 5:25 AM ET (1025 GMT). The U.K. was up 0.3%, while the German was up 0.2% and the French up 0.1% on a day when trading is expected to be subdued by the closure of U.S. cash markets for the Presidents Day holiday.

Automotive stocks were among the biggest gainers after China’s central bank cut one of its main interest rates and added more short-term liquidity to the local market, while Beijing also hinted at future tax cuts.

The news was accompanied by reports of a further drop in new cases of Covid-19 reported in China, as well as a slowdown in deaths. There was also more upbeat anecdotal news as Macau gave its casinos permission to reopen from Thursday.

The automotive sector has various channels of exposure to the virus, chiefly through the impact on local sales in the world’s biggest market, but also through its supply chain. Kia Motors closed down all three of its plants in South Korea last week citing shortages of components from Chinese suppliers, while Fiat Chrysler temporarily closed a plant in Serbia for the same reasons.

French components groups Faurecia (PA:) and Valeo (PA:) led the sector higher with gains of 6% and 5.4%, after Faurecia published stronger-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter. German components groups Schaeffler, Continental and Hella also rose by between 2% and 3%.

Elsewhere, the red ink was more visible. Royal Bank of Scotland Group (LON:), which last week said it would rebrand itself NatWest, fell 1.5% amid fears that the U.K. government may start a firesale of its shareholding in the bank to fund its ambitious spending plans.

Bayer (DE:) stock fell 2.4% after a new court ruling awarding heavy damages to a farmer who claimed the German chemicals giant’s dicamba weedkiller had ruined his orchards. That creates a second source of litigation risk, on top of separate claims against its Roundup product. Both were developed by Monsanto (NYSE:), which Bayer agreed to buy in 2017. Bayer stock is still up 25% from last year’s low, but has almost halved in value since 2015.

U.K. asset manager Jupiter Fund Management (LON:) rose 6.8% to its highest since August 2018 after announcing the acquisition of smaller rival Merian, which had been spun out of the Old Mutual Group.

Electricite de France (PA:) stock, meanwhile, hit another 12-month high, extending gains after reporting better-than-expected full-year earnings for 2019 and predicting further improvement in 2020.

French engineering group Alstom SA (PA:) hit a 10-year high after confirming it’s in talks to merge with Bombardier’s (TSX:) rail unit. That comes after the European Union Commission struck down its plans to merge with Siemens’ rail business nine months ago.

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