Consumer confidence indices for France and Germany showed improvements today, offering markets some comfort following a plethora of disappointing news yesterday. Equity indices initially traded higher by more than one percent on the continent and up to 0.7% in the UK, before losing ground throughout the afternoon. Continued Greek eurozone exit concerns were evident as new polls showed that the left-wing anti-bailout Syriza were leading with 30% of the vote, ahead of the centre-right New Democracy at 26%. The confirmation that other eurozone member were preparing contingency plans, combined with a Memorial Day holiday in the US on Monday, ensured investors were apprehensive of putting money back to work in risk assets.
There was also troublesome news from Spain, where shares in the part nationalised Bankia were suspended today, ahead of board meeting this evening to finalise the amount of aid it will request from the government. Catalonia, one of 17 Spanish regions, has also asked for financial assistance from the government, given that it has €113 billion of debt to refinance this year, in addition to its annual deficit.
Data from the US provide some support, as Michigan Consumer Sentiment came in at a multi-year high of 79.3, considerably above expectations. The data coincided with stock markets coming off their daily lows, with indices across Europe having a mixed close. The UK’s FTSE100 finished essentially flat at 5351, whilst the CAC40 and DAX approach gains of 0.5%, with gold and oil posting a similar performance.