- The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended the session down by 0.2%, with the health care sector falling 1.1% while most major bourses entered negative territory.
- IHS Markit's euro zone flash PMI (purchasing managers' index) readings for April showed the economic recovery gathering pace across the bloc.
- Daimler upped its profit forecasts for 2021 on Friday morning, but cautioned that the global shortage of semiconductor chips may continue to weigh on second-quarter sales.
LONDON — European markets closed slightly lower on Friday as global stocks searched for direction to end the week, with investors monitoring a slew of economic data and corporate earnings.
The Stoxx 600 index provisionally ended the session down by 0.2%, with the health care sector falling 1.1% while most major bourses entered negative territory. The pan-European benchmark was down 0.8% on the week.
Shares in Asia-Pacific closed mixed on Friday, while U.S. stocks rebounded after a sell-off on Thursday amid reports that the White House is considering a capital gains tax hike.
In Europe, IHS Markit's euro zone flash PMI (purchasing managers' index) readings for April showed the economic recovery gathering pace across the bloc. The preliminary composite reading, which combines services and manufacturing, came in at 53.7 in April versus 53.2 in March, with anything above 50 representing expansion.
The U.K.'s composite PMI surged to 60.0 in April from 56.4 in March as the country embarks on a phased exit from lockdown.
"This morning's PMI figures continue to show the impact of the easing of restrictions, with positive sentiment increasingly evident in the UK's dominant service sector," said Dean Turner, economist at UBS Global Wealth Management.
"With all sectors showing an improvement relative to March, we believe this points to further strength in the economy in the months ahead."
U.K. retail sales soared 5.4% in March, vastly outstripping expectations ahead of the lifting of restrictions.
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A GfK survey showed British consumer sentiment this month rising to its highest point since the pandemic as the economy begins to partially reopen.
It's another big day for earnings in Europe, with Air Liquide, Schaeffler and LafargeHolcim among the blue chip companies reporting on Friday. Renault and Merck both hold their annual general meetings.
Daimler upped its profit forecasts for 2021 on Friday morning, but cautioned that the global shortage of semiconductor chips may continue to weigh on second-quarter sales. The Mercedes-Benz maker's shares were roughly flat by the market close.
At the top of the Stoxx 600, Finnish sustainable technology firm Wartsila rallied another 7% after beating earnings expectations on Thursday, while at the opposite end of the benchmark Italian fashion company Moncler dropped 4% after its results.
Cryptocurrencies are also on investors' radar after a plunge overnight, with bitcoin dipping below $50,000.
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— CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report.