(RTTNews.com) - The majority of the European markets ended Monday's session with modest gains. However, the Italian stock market was a notable exception, as the prospect of a hung Parliament in Italy looks increasingly likely. Nearly half of the votes in Sunday's Italian general election went to populist parties. The official tally has yet to be confirmed, but it appears neither side has won a clear majority.
Meanwhile, Germany's Social Democratic party voted to join a coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Investors remained in a cautious mood at the start of the trading week. Concerns about a global trade war continue to weigh on sentiment, as President Donald Trump plans to implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Traders are also looking forward to the release of the U.S. jobs report on Friday.
The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index advanced 1.05 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks increased 0.92 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, added 1.09 percent.
The DAX of Germany climbed 1.49 percent and the CAC 40 of France rose 0.60 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. gained 0.65 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished higher by 2.08 percent.
In Paris, Airbus rose 1.92 percent as possible job cuts loom.
AXA sank 9.70 percent after the insurer agreed to acquire XL Group Ltd (XL), a global Property & Casualty commercial lines insurer for total consideration of US$15.3 billion or 12.4 billion euros in cash.
In London, Royal Bank of Scotland climbed 1.63 percent after reports that it is edging towards a final deal over mis-selling RMBS prior to the 2008 financial crisis.
Tesco advanced 0.69 percent after Jefferies upgraded its rating on the stock to "Buy" from "Hold." Wm. Morrison Supermarkets also added 1.53 percent.
The Eurozone private sector expanded slightly less than initially estimated in February, final data from IHS Markit showed Monday. The composite output index dropped to 57.1 from January's near 12-year high of 58.8. The flash reading was 57.5.
Eurozone investor confidence weakened sharply in March largely due to the deterioration in Germany, survey data from think tank Sentix showed Monday. The investor sentiment index fell to 24.0 in March from 31.9 in February. The score was forecast to drop moderately to 30.9.
Eurozone retail sales dropped marginally in January, as expected, figures from Eurostat revealed Monday. The volume of retail trade fell slightly by 0.1 percent month-on-month in January, following December's 1 percent decrease. The rate came in line with expectations.
British service sector activity expanded at the fastest pace in four months in February on strong upturn in new work, survey data from IHS Markit showed Monday. The IHS Markit/Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply Purchasing Managers' Index, rose more-than-expected to 54.5 in February from 53.0 in January. The score was forecast to rise to 53.3.
The services sector in China continued to expand in February, albeit at a slightly slower pace, the latest survey from Caixin showed on Monday with a services PMI score of 54.2. That's down from 54.7 in January, although it remains above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.
Activity in the U.S. service sector grew at a slightly slower rate in the month of February, according to a report released by the Institute for Supply Management on Monday.
The ISM said its non-manufacturing index edged down to 59.5 in February from 59.9 in January, although a reading above 50 still indicates growth in the service sector. Economists had expected the index to dip to 59.0.
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