01:27 PM EDT, 03/26/2021 (MT Newswires) -- European stocks closed higher for the first time this week Friday as investor sentiment improved on hopes for global economic recovery amid lingering fears over a third wave of COVID-19.
The FTSE was up 1% and European Stoxx 600 and the German DAX were both up 0.9%. The French CAC was up 0.1% and the Swiss Market Index was up 0.6%.
The UK's retail sales recovered month over month in February, thanks to a surge in consumers purchasing outdoor furniture and goods ahead of the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. Retail sales increased 2.1% in February, in line with analyst estimates, after an 8.2% slump in January, the Office for National Statistics said. The reading, however, fell 3.7% on a yearly basis, beyond the estimated 3.5% decline.
The European Union is halting exports of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L, AZN.ST) vaccine until the drugmaker meets the agreements previously reached with the bloc, Reuters reported, citing EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.
The European Medicines Agency on Friday approved three new manufacturing sites for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX, 22UA.F), AstraZeneca, and Moderna (MRNA) to increase manufacturing capacity within the European Union.
Among individual stocks, Smiths Group (SMIN.L) rose nearly 7% after declaring a 6% increase in its interim dividend despite recording a year-over-year drop in profit for the first half of fiscal 2021, driven by a decline in revenue, a jump in taxation and lower profit from discontinued operations. The engineering company's profit for the six months ended Jan. 31 slipped to 129 million pounds sterling ($177.4 million) from 145 million pounds a year ago. EPS fell to 0.322 pounds from 0.362 pounds. Revenue in the period decreased 7% year over year to 1.15 billion pounds due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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