European equity benchmarks were higher on the morning of the second trading day of the new year buoyed by rising employment in Germany, which is home to the region's largest economy, and continued growth in the UK's construction sector albeit at a slightly slower than expected pace.
Germany's employment rate rose by 1.4% to 44.7 million people in November year-on-year, according to the country's federal statistics agency Destatis. That was 0.2% higher than the level registered in the prior month.
In the UK, construction output growth eased slightly in December, according to research company IHS Markit's closely-watched purchasing managers' index (PMI) which provides a single-figure snapshot of performance within the sector. The PMI reading for December was 52.2, down from the 53.2 reading which was registered in the prior month and also below the median estimate of analysts for 53.1. IHS' PMI readings above 50 signal expansion within a sector while those below denote contraction.
The slight slow-down in output growth was partly attributed to a drop in commercial projects and stagnating civil engineering output which contrasted with a robust rise in residential building.
Oil prices meanwhile were marginally higher ahead of weekly inventory projections due out from the American Petroleum Institute later in the day. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, the main US benchmark, was 0.2% higher at $60.47 per barrel while Brent crude, the international gauge, was up by 0.1% at $66.66 per barrel.
In equities, clothing retailer Next was leading the gainers on London's FTSE 100 Index, 7.4% higher after saying that full price sales in the 54 days from November 1 to December 24 were up by 1.5% from the prior-year period, am improvement on the company's November guidance for a contraction of 0.3%. Associated British Foods was up by 2.8% and Ashtead Group, an equipment rental company, was up by 2.5%. Experian was 2.3% higher.
On Frankfurt's DAX, automobile manufacturer Volkswagen was 2.6% higher, airline operator Lufthansa was up by 1.9% and semiconductor manufacturer Infineon was also up by 1.9%. HeidelbergCement was trading 1.5% higher. And, on Paris' CAC-40, concrete production company LafargeHolcim was 3.3% higher, Airbus, a manufacturer of aircraft parts, was up by 1.9% and STMicroelectronics, a manufacturer of semiconductors, was 1.7% higher. Car manufacturer Peugeot was up by 1.4%.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was 0.36% higher, London's FTSE 100 Index was up by 0.01%, Frankfurt's DAX was 0.53% higher and Paris' CAC-40 was up by 0.38% at the time of writing.
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