European stocks inched higher on Friday, while U.S. equity futures pulled back as investors weighed up a mix of coronavirus updates and a rift between the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve over ending emergency lending programs.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index
rose 0.3% to 388.87 for a nearly 1% weekly gain. The German DAX
rose 0.2%, French CAC 40
was up 0.4% and the FTSE 100
added 0.3%. The euro was steady at $1.1872.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500 futures
fell around 0.4% each, while Nasdaq-100 futures
were modestly off. U.S. stocks shifted into positive territory in the final hours of trading on Thursday, amid fresh fiscal stimulus hopes.
But stimulus-deal optimism was overshadowed after the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday declined to extend emergency loan programs that were set up with the Fed and due to expire at the end of the year. The Fed voiced its objection in a statement that followed, displaying a rare public rift between the two.
Mnuchin also asked the Fed to return the unused funds to Treasury so that they could be reappropriated.
The disagreement comes as the U.S. battles out-of-control infection rates, with California imposing a new curfew and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against travel for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday.
In a setback for virus treatments, a World Health Organization panel recommended against doctors using biotech Gilead Sciences’
drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients, saying it “has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes.”
There was some upbeat news for Europe, though, after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reportedly said on Thursday that drugmaker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech and biotech Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates could receive conditional marketing authorization by mid December. Reuters reported that the EU could pay over $10 billion to buy doses of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and German pharmaceutical CureVac.
Still, Hans Kluge, the WHO’s Europe director, warned on Thursday that the continent faces a difficult six months ahead, with the region accounting for 28% of global cases and 26% of deaths. That is as EU leaders failed to progress on a mega stimulus package on Thursday that has been stalled due to a veto by Poland and Hungary.
And Brexit trade talks were suspended for a “short period” after a member of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for COVID-19.
On the data front, retail sales in the U.K. rose in October for the sixth consecutive month, despite a surge in infections.
“Despite strong revs growth, higher investments and £17 million of bad debt provisioning has invariably resulted in a weaker performance in org. operating profit,” said a team of analysts at Jefferies led by Paul Kratz, in a note to clients.