European stocks posted the biggest weekly advance in more than a month amid speculation that central banks will continue to provide monetary stimulus and as a report showed that Chinese imports had beat forecasts.
A gauge of lenders climbed, with National Bank of Greece SA rallying 24 percent and Barclays PLC advancing 6.9 percent. Man Group PLC, the world’s largest publicly traded hedge fund manager, surged the most in four years as regulators cut the amount of capital it must hold. Volkswagen AG and Pirelli & C. SpA slid more than 4 percent as auto industry shares declined.
The STOXX Europe 600 Index rose 1.8 percent to 292.39 this week, even after dropping 0.9 percent on Friday as US retail sales and consumer confidence figures missed forecasts.
The gauge had previously fallen for three straight weeks, the longest stretch of losses in more than 10 months. The benchmark measure has gained 4.5 percent this year as US lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget, and data on housing and jobs fueled optimism that the world’s biggest economy is recovering.
A gauge of carmakers was the only group among 19 in the STOXX 600 that posted a decline this week. Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest car maker, dropped 4.3 percent.
“The week was pretty mixed data-wise, but China saved the world,” said Christian Zogg, head of equity and fixed income at LLB Asset Management AG. “The poor figures out of Europe and the US at the end of last week suggested that the central banks can run a loose monetary policy for a much longer time. Financial shares got a pretty strong boost from that. Sentiment isn’t exactly euphoric, but stocks offer the best yield on the capital market.”
National benchmark indices rose in all of the 18 western European markets this week, except Iceland. The UK’s FTSE 100 added 2.2 percent, while France’s CAC 40 increased 1.8 percent and Germany’s DAX gained 1.1 percent. Greece’s ASE Index surged 13 percent for the biggest jump in nine months and Portugal’s PSI-20 jumped 5.1 percent, the most since September last year.
The European Central Bank (ECB) will look for signs in economic data that inflation may slow more than it anticipates and policy will remain loose for “as long as needed,” according to its monthly bulletin released on Thursday.
In Germany, exports fell more than economists estimated in February as the eurozone, the country’s biggest trading partner, struggled to rebound.