European stocks started Friday trading on a mixed note ahead of a key series of economic growth figures Britain and the United States as well as an estimate of the pace of inflation in the Eurozone.
The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 index, the broadest measure of share price performance, was marked 0.17% lower in the opening 45 minutes of trading as benchmarks in Britain and Germany drifted lower but notched modest gains in France and Italy.
Bank shares in the U.K. and Switzerland were the focus of the market's early attention, with Barclays Plc (BCS) shares falling sharply as a stronger-than-expected first quarter pre-tax profit report that was offset by a rise in credit impairments.
Barclays shares fell 4% in the opening 45 minutes of trading in London to change hands at 215 pence each, wiping out the year-to-date gain compared to a 1.33% rise for the FTSE 100 and a 7.81% advance for the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index.
Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS) shares, however, rose to the highest level in more than a year after it notched its first quarterly profit since 2015 with a better-than-expected bottom line linked to aggressive cost cutting.
RBS shares gained rose more than 4% in early London trading before paring the advance to 1.4% to change hands at 256 pence each, extending its year-to-date gain to nearly 15%.
UBS AG (OUBSF) shares also traded firmly higher, rising 2.5% to Srf17.05 each in Zurich Friday after it posted a much stronger than expected set of first quarter earnings and said client inflows to its wealth management division increased by more than $5 billion.
None of the early market moves beyond the banking sector, however are expected to be significant in the final day of trading that has seen back-to-back triple digit gains for U.S. stocks and multi-month highs for both the pound and the euro against the greenback amid a host of stellar corporate earnings and a less-than-impressive tax reform proposal from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Against that backdrop, stocks softened overnight in Asia as investors took profits at the end of a bullish week and trimmed risky bets amid some increasing rhetoric from Trump over the a looming nuclear showdown with North Korea.
The region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was marked -0.13% while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell -0.3% to close at 19,196.74 points following disappointing manufacturing and inflation data.
Oil prices managed a small rebound, however, after falling more than 2% yesterday amid concerns over a glut in global supply, as investors focused on the chance of an extension in OPEC's 1.8 million barrel per day production cuts at the end of June.
WTI closed future for June delivery were marked 1.02% higher at $49.47 while Brent contracts were seen 1.53% higher at $52.23.
First quarter GDP data from Britain at 09:30 BST is likely to show a modest slowdown in activity as the impact of the country's decision to leave the European Union begins to take effect, however economic resilience to the Brexit vote has confounded many experts since June 23.
Data from France, however, was tepid, with weak household spending holding back growth in Europe's second-largest economy to 0.3% in the first three months of the year, down from 0.5% in the final quarter of 2016 and shy of the 0.4% tally anticipated by economists.
Eurozone inflation will also be in focus today as Eurostat, the region's official statistics agency, publishes its first estimate of consumer price increase for April at 10:00 BST. The euro has given back some of its gains against the U.S. dollar after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi cautioned on the slow pace of inflation increases yesterday and the Bank lefts all of its key rates and policy strategies unchanged. March inflation was tabbed at an annual rate of 1.5% and slowed sharply from the 4-year high 2.2% rate recorded in February as the impact of rising oil prices lifted the headline reading.
U.S. futures prices are forecasting modest declines for both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500, but an impressive set of earnings from Alphabet/Google's (GOOGL - Get Report) and Amazon.com (AMZN - Get Report) after the close Thursday are likely to boost the Nasdaq, by around 17 points the opening bell later today.