By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

European stocks gained on Thursday, with investors bidding auto makers and pharmaceuticals higher in the face of data showing a stagnating economy as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi leads his last interest-rate meeting.

The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.38% to 396.55. Speculation that the European Union will grant the U.K. an extension to Brexit also helped buoy sentiment.

The German DAX added 0.49%, to 12861.02, the French CAC 40 rose 0.36% to 5673.77 and the U.K. FTSE 100 increased 0.67%, to 7309.57.

The ECB isn't expected to take any fresh action at Draghi's last meeting. "The economic data continues to show underlying weakness in the eurozone, and we expect the ECB to reiterate that risks are still to the downside," said Andrew Harman, senior portfolio manager at First State Investments, who expects further weakness in the euro.

That data includes the flash eurozone composite purchasing managers index barely staying over the 50 mark in October. The outlook in Germany in particular was worrisome, with the services PMI falling to a 37-month low. Read:German economy continues to struggle with manufacturing troubles spreading to services (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/german-economy-continues-to-struggle-with-manufacturing-troubles-spreading-to-services-2019-10-24)

AstraZeneca (AZN.LN)(AZN.LN) provided the largest upward pull to the Stoxx 600, with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical rising 3.3% as cancer drug sales drove better-than-forecast third-quarter sales and profit.

Daimler (DAI.XE) rose 4.4% as the German auto maker reported a better-than-forecast operating profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/daimler-reports-higher-revenue-and-earnings-2019-10-24).

Nokia (NOKIA.HE) (NOKIA.HE) plunged 20% as the Finnish telecom equipment maker lowered its guidance for this year and next, citing margin pressure, more 5G investments and additional digitalization investments. The company also cited high costs linked to first-generation 5G products, profitability challenges in China and pricing pressure in early 5G deals.

Rival Ericsson (ERIC-B.SK) slipped 3%.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 24, 2019 05:27 ET (09:27 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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