Disappointing earnings updates weigh on FTSE 100; Italian shares shine

Shreyashi Sanyal and Susan Mathew
·2-min read
The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Susan Mathew

(Reuters) - European shares extended their rally to a fourth straight day on Thursday, as investors hoped for a swifter global economic recovery, while Unilever's disappointing targets weighed on London's blue-chip index.

The STOXX 600 index rose 0.6%, while London's FTSE 100 ended flat, underperforming regional peers for a second straight day, as consumer giant Unilever slumped 6.2% after its sales growth target underwhelmed investors.[.L]

A slide in oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell also weighed, with Shell reporting its lowest annual profit in at least two decades. [O/R]

Banks and the sterling rose as money markets pushed bets on negative UK interest rates out to February 2022 after Bank of England said Britain's banks would need at least six months to prepare for sub-zero rates.

"The BoE look unlikely to cut rates anytime soon, with a six-month adjustment period meaning the UK economy will be well into its recovery by the time they are even considered," said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG.

Italian shares gained 1.7% to close at a one month high, extending a rally after former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi accepted the task of forming a new government on Wednesday.

The prime minister designate will conclude his formal consultations with parties on Saturday, the parliament's press office said in a statement on Thursday.

A 5.3% jump in shares of Bayer lifted Germany's DAX to one-month highs after the life science company struck a $2 billion deal to resolve future legal claims that its widely used weedkiller Roundup causes cancer.

Meanwhile, Germany's ruling coalition parties on Wednesday agreed a batch of additional measures to support those hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global markets remained hopeful after Democrats pushed ahead on Wednesday with a manoeuvre to pass U.S. President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without Republican support.

Among other companies reporting earnings, Swiss drugmaker Roche was the top boost on the STOXX 600 after it forecasted a rise in 2021 sales and profit thanks to surging demand for COVID-19 tests.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, David Gregorio)