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European markets close on high as 'freedom day' moved to 19 July

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday June 14, 2021.
The full lifting of England's lockdown restrictions has been pushed to 19 July. Photo: PA

European stocks were up at the closing bell in London, as investors parsed the news that England's final lifting of lockdown restrictions would be pushed by four weeks due to Delta variant coronavirus caseloads, and on positive jobs market data. 

UK businesses warned of severe impact after prime minister Boris Johnson announced last night that the final stage of lockdown lifting in England would be delayed by four weeks to 19 July. 

Nightclubs and bars argued that one week's notice was not enough to shield the impact on businesses. 

There was also data from the UK's labour market, which showed redundancies fell at a record rate to reach pre-pandemic levels. 

The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in the three months to April, representing about 1.6 million people, in a modest improvement from 4.8% in the three months to March.

The job market is currently bracing ahead of the end of the furlough scheme. 

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was 0.3% up by the close, eking out a 16-month high from steady gains. France's CAC (^FCHI) was also trading up 0.4% and Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) also headed 0.4% higher. 

Watch: Delta variant pushes back full UK opening by a month

“All the dials in the labour market are pointing in the right direction, but they’re heavily distorted by the gravitational pull of the furlough scheme, lockdown lifting bottlenecks, and the effect of annual comparisons now lapping the first wave of the crisis," said Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

"We won’t get a clear picture of the health of the post pandemic economy until the back end of this year, and that means the Bank of England isn’t going to rush to any interest rate hikes in the next few months, even if the UK looks to be firing on all cylinders."

Read more: Quarter of UK bars and clubs will go bust without government help

Stocks were bullish in the US on Monday ahead of the Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting — the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indices closed at all-time highs, buoyed by gains from tech giants. 

Despite gains made yesterday, US stocks moved lower by the closing bell in London, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) trading 0.3% lower and the Dow (^DJI) 0.5% lower. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) was down 0.7%. 

The downward moves come following new data showing US retail sales were in decline to the tune of 1.3% in May. 

In a separate report, the Labor Department also said its producer price index for final demand had increased 0.8% last month after rising 0.6% in April.

Asian stocks presented a mixed bag overnight. The Hang Seng (^HSI) and SSE Composite (000001.SS) both closed 0.7% and 0.9% lower respectively, as geopolitical tensions between China and the US upped the ante. 

Investors are also watching developments following reports of a possible leak at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province, near Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei (^N225) was up 1%. 

Watch: Lockdown restrictions: What is changing?

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