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European stocks gain on German data as focus turns to ECB policy meeting

By Johann M Cherian, Ozan Ergenay and Ankika Biswas

(Reuters) -European shares climbed on Monday, led by cyclical stocks, after strong industrial production data from the region’s largest economy Germany, although there was a sense of caution ahead of this week’s European Central Bank’s policy decision.

The index closed 0.5% higher, with marginally outperforming most of its regional peers with a 0.8% gain.

Data showed German industrial production rose more than expected in February, driven by the construction industry.

Cyclical sectors including automobiles and industrial goods and services gained 1.3% and 0.8%, respectively, with basic resources rising 2% also supported by prices hitting a 14-month high.

However, analysts struck a cautious tone.

“Today’s figures give hope that the German economy did not contract again in (the) first quarter,” Commerzbank (ETR:) senior economist Ralph Solveen wrote.

“However, a sustained recovery is not likely to set in until the second half of the year. This is also likely to be rather moderate, as it will receive little support from monetary policy and will be held back by the numerous structural problems.”

Germany’s 10-year government bond yield hit a two-and-a-half-week high ahead of the ECB’s interest rate decision on Thursday, as last week’s strong U.S. jobs data prompted bets on fewer rate cuts this year.

With traders widely expecting the ECB to stand pat on rates, they will scour for any hints that a first rate cut of 25 basis points could be delivered in June.

The benchmark STOXX 600 on Friday notched its worst week since mid-January as U.S. policymakers talked down market expectations for imminent rate cuts – optimism around which have driven gains among most developed markets since late 2023.

Further, a survey showed euro zone’s investor morale improved for the sixth consecutive month in April to its highest level in more than two years.

Among individual movers, German online fashion retailer Zalando surged 7.4% to top the STOXX following a Citigroup rating upgrade to “buy” from “neutral”.

Allfunds climbed 5.3%, with traders pointing to a media report that Motive Partners is considering a bid for the fund distribution group, while Entain rose 5.2% on chatter over potential takeover interest following last week’s news of Chair Barry Gibson’s exit.

SSAB’s CEO Martin Lindqvist is set to step down, with the Swedish steelmaker starting a search for his successor. The stock fell 2.5%.

Believe slumped 9.2% after U.S.-based Warner Music Group said it will not submit an offer to acquire the French digital music company.

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