LONDON (Reuters) – European shares extended a recovery on Monday thanks to bank stocks as dealmaking took center stage again after a week of political tension in Italy and Spain and friction between the U.S. and its allies over trade policies.
Investors’ concerns over trade were overshadowed by very strong U.S. jobs data on Friday. Europe’s STOXX 600 <.STOXX> took the lead from Asian markets climbing on the data, up 0.6 percent while Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI> rose 0.8 percent.
News about mergers and acquisitions (M&A), particularly in the financial sector, drove the biggest moves.
Dealmaking has been a key trend in equity markets globally this year, with the UK among the most active for deals, helping the FTSE 100 start to outperform euro zone stocks.
The banks sector <.SX7P> jumped 1.2 percent, the strongest boost to overall gains, as investors priced in potential dealmaking activity and stronger economic data.
Unicredit shares rose 3.5 percent and Societe Generale gained 2.6 percent after the Financial Times reported the two were exploring a merger which many investors hope could pave the way to further consolidation in the sector.
Analysts noted that speculation about a deal has been ongoing, but regulatory obstacles posed a big challenge.
“The political and regulatory backdrop remains a significant hurdle to deliver an attractive deal,” said Jefferies analysts.
“While the recent political volatility in Italy understandably increases the merger rationale for UniCredit, in our view an outright merger is unlikely in the current circumstances,” said KBW banking analyst Jean-Pierre Lambert.
British lender CYBG gained 3.2 percent after it upped its offer for challenger bank Virgin Money by 7 percent.
Beyond financials, Air France topped the STOXX with a 5.3 percent gain after AccorHotelssaid it was looking at taking a stake in the airline.
Accor fell 4 percent on the news.
“While the strategic rationale for Accor is there, we wonder why this cannot be achieved by a commercial partnership without any equity stake,” said Bernstein analyst Caius Slater.
For Air France he saw little benefit from a potential deal. The removal of a government stake could increase bargaining power against labor unions, said Slater, but on the other hand the stake was possibly providing a floor to the share price.
Italian and Spanish equities were the top gainers, having suffered a week of heightened uncertainty as Italian parties negotiated a government and Spain’s Prime Minister was ousted. Spain’s IBEX <.IBEX> was up 1.3 percent while Italy’s FTSE MIB gained 0.6 percent.
The political turmoil did have knock-on effects for investor morale, however. A Sentix index for euro zone investor confidence fell for the fifth month in a row in June, hitting its lowest level since October 2016.
Deutsche Bank shares rose 1.7 percent in their second day of modest recovery after they hit a record low on Thursday on a report the U.S. Fed had deemed its U.S. operations “troubled”.