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European stocks steady amid Biden stimulus doubts

By AFP - Jan 18,2021 - Last updated at Jan 18,2021

LONDON — European stock markets steadied on Monday amid doubts over the passage of US President-elect Joe Biden's flagship stimulus policy.

Nearing the half-way mark, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 0.3 per cent, Paris flatlined and Frankfurt added 0.2 per cent.

Asia mostly closed lower following a recent rally, though Hong Kong and Shanghai rose on data showing China's economy expanded a forecast-beating 2.3 per cent last year.

While the reading was the weakest in four decades, it showed growth was picking up again after a devastating start to 2020 as swathes of the country were shut down to contain the deadly coronavirus.

The dollar traded mixed, Bitcoin held steady and oil prices declined, while most US markets were shut for Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Focus is turning to Biden's inauguration on Wednesday and hopes that his massive spending plan can get through Congress.

 

Stimulus concerns 

 

"European markets have stumbled into a new week, with Biden's stimulus promises doing little to help sentiment given doubts over just how much of that package will be approved in Congress," said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online traders IG.

"With the US markets closed for Martin Luther King day, today provides a gentle entry into a week that will be dominated by the US.”

"While US trading activity minimised today, speculation over whether Biden will be able to garner enough support to pass his full stimulus package remain a key concern for markets," Mahony added.

While broadly welcomed on trading floors, Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal was unable to fuel fresh gains with the spending spree largely priced in.

Concern about a frightening spike in new virus cases was also keeping a lid on buying sentiment as governments are forced to impose fresh lockdowns while battling to roll out vaccines.

On the corporate front, shares in French supermarket Carrefour tanked 5.5 per cent to 15.69 euros after Canadian convenience store chain Couche-Tard dropped a mega takeover bid.

Elsewhere, newly-created European carmaker Stellantis motored its way Monday onto the Paris and Milan stock exchanges.

Stellantis — created by the merger of France's PSA and US-Italian rival Fiat Chrysler — is the world's fourth-biggest automaker by volume.

Its brands include Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

On Monday, its shares gained 4.41 per cent to 13.44 euros in Paris in midday trades, and were 6.87 per cent higher at 13.43 euros in Milan. The group will make its New York stock market debut on Tuesday.

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