Europe markets: Russia-Ukraine, inflation fears weigh

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LONDON — European markets nudged higher on Friday, as global investors assessed inflation and a hawkish surprise from the European Central Bank, while continuing to track developments in Ukraine.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 added 1.08% by the close, with travel and leisure stocks climbing 3.5% to lead gains as most sectors and major scholarships closed in positive territory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday “certain positive shifts” have occurred in the talks between the Kremlin and Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly said Ukraine has reached a “strategic turning point” in its war with Russia.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average headed for its fifth straight week of losses on Friday, despite solid gains on the day, as investors remain cautious amid the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Tea ECB on Thursday announced that it will end its bond-buying program in the third quarter of 2022 if economic data justifies it, sooner than previously planned. President Christine Lagarde said the war will have a “material impact on economic activity and inflation.”

Market sentiment has been in thrall to developments in Ukraine since Russia launched its attack on Feb. 24. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian diplomats in Turkey have stalled without progress on a cease-fire or an evacuation passage for civilians attempting to flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

A raft of economic data was released Friday from across Europe, including February’s German inflation prints and UK gross domestic product, construction, manufacturing and industrial production figures for January.

The UK economy rebounded more strongly than expected in January after its late 2021 Covid-induced slowdown. The Office for National Statistics said GDP grew 0.8% month on month after a 0.2% decline in December, vastly outstripping expectations of 0.2% growth in a Reuters poll of economists.

German inflation accelerated in February, with harmonized consumer prices rising 5.5% year on year.

In terms of individual share price movement, Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo surged more than 10% after posting strong fourth-quarter results and promising forward guidance.

At the bottom of the index, German meal kit delivery company Delivery Hero fell 1.8%.

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—CNBC’s Maggie Fitzgerald and Samantha Subin contributed to this article.

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