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European stocks close higher as investors digest euro zone inflation; up 2.3% for the month

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European stocks closed higher Friday as investors digested fresh euro zone inflation data and its implications for next week's European Central Bank rate decision.

The regional Stoxx 600 index was provisionally 0.28% higher as markets closed. Sectors were mostly in positive territory, with utilities adding 1.04% while tech lost 1.48%. The Stoxx 600 benchmark finished the month of May 2.3% higher, its biggest gain since March, Refinitiv data showed.

British retailer JD Sports trailed near the bottom of the pan-European benchmark, dropping as much as 12% before paring losses slightly, after it reported a fall in first-quarter U.K. sales.

Euro zone inflation rose to 2.6% in May, slightly higher than the 2.5% analysts had predicted, fresh data from statistics agency Eurostat said Friday. The uptick comes as the European Central Bank is widely expected to cut interest rates at its June 6 meeting, the first reduction since 2019.

Fresh data out of Italy also showed the economy grew 0.3% in the first quarter, with a similar growth rate expected for the rest of the year.

Elsewhere, U.S. stocks ticked lower Friday as investors assessed the latest set of corporate earnings and looked ahead to a key inflation report. In Asia Pacific, markets rose on the back of fresh data from major economies across the region.

European markets close higher on last trading day of the month

European markets closed higher on the last trading day of the month.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was provisionally up 0.28% as markets closed on Friday. Most sectors were in the green, with utilities stocks leading gains and finishing the day 1.04% higher. Tech stocks fell 1.48%.

Major European bourses were mixed, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 finishing the day up 0.57% and France's CAC 40 closing 0.03% higher. Meanwhile, Germany's DAX ended the day 0.07% lower.

— Sophie Kiderlin

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Flash French inflation rises in first quarter

French consumer prices rose by a higher-than-expected 2.7% in May, preliminary data from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee) showed Friday.

Higher energy costs pushed up inflation from 2.4% in April and beyond the average EU-harmonized rate of 2.5% forecast by a Reuters poll of economists.

The Insee also confirmed France's economy grew by 0.2% in the first quarter, in line with expectations, according to Reuters.

— Karen Gilchrist

Euro zone inflation rises to 2.6% in May

People walking in the streets of Montmartre, Paris, France, on April 23, 2024. 
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images
People walking in the streets of Montmartre, Paris, France, on April 23, 2024. 

Inflation in the euro zone rose to 2.6% in May, statistics agency Eurostat said Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.1 percentage point increase from April's headline figure of 2.4%.

Core inflation, excluding the volatile effects of energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, increased to 2.9% from 2.7% in April. A Reuters poll of economists had projected a flat reading.

The data print comes with the European Central Bank widely expected to cut interest rates at its June 6 meeting, the first reduction since 2019. The ECB began its latest hiking cycle in July 2022, hauling rates out of negative territory to 4% at present.

— Jenni Reid

Italy's economy grew 0.3% in the first quarter

Two women hold an umbrella while sitting at an outdoor table of a cafe on April 01, 2024 in Rome, Italy. 
Emanuele Cremaschi | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Two women hold an umbrella while sitting at an outdoor table of a cafe on April 01, 2024 in Rome, Italy. 

Italy's economy grew in line with expectations in the first quarter, expanding 0.3%, fresh data from the national statistics bureau ISTAT showed Friday.

On an annual basis, gross domestic product for the January to March period was up to 0.7% from the 0.6% previously estimated.

— Karen Gilchrist

JD Sports shares drop 12.4%

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/05/17: A scene outside JD sport shop. The Prime Minister announced that England can proceed to Stage Three on May 17, 2021. Most shops can reopen including indoor. (Photo by May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/05/17: A scene outside JD sport shop. The Prime Minister announced that England can proceed to Stage Three on May 17, 2021. Most shops can reopen including indoor. (Photo by May James/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Shares of British retailer JD Sports fell to the bottom of the Stoxx 600, down 12.4%, after the company reported a 6.4% fall in like-for-like first-quarter U.K. sales on Friday.

CEO Regis Schultz said the downturn was on the back of "very strong" results the previous year.

The group's overall like-for-like sales were 0.7% lower for the period.

— Karen Gilchrist

Europe stocks head for lower open

European stock markets are set to open lower on Friday, reversing gains from the previous session, according to IG data.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 was last seen down 2 points at 8,230, Germany's DAX 48 points lower at 18,463, and France's CAC down 9 points at 7,967. Italy's MIB was seen slipping 13 points to 34,486.

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