(There will be no European stock market report on Friday and Monday on account of Easter holidays. Reuters will resume coverage on Tuesday, April 6)
* STOXX 600 still lags S&P 500 to hit record high
* Chipmakers rally after Micron results
* Credit Suisse set for worst week in a year (Adds comments, updates prices throughout)
April 1 (Reuters) - European stocks ended a hair’s breadth away from a record high on Thursday as strong factory activity data out of the euro zone and optimism around a new U.S. government spending plan eclipsed concerns about another lockdown in France.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.7% at 432.22 points, about a point away from its all-time high. Its U.S. counterparts have already recaptured all their coronavirus-driven losses from last year.
The German DAX climbed 0.7% to hit an all-time high, while the UK’s FTSE 100 gained 0.4% as data showed euro zone factory activity growth galloped at its fastest pace in the near 24-year history of a leading business survey in March.
“A synchronised global recovery is expected to come through pretty strongly as we go through unlocking Europe in the next few months,” said Jonathan Stubbs, equity strategist at Berenberg.
“The earnings recovery story looks pretty well underpinned. My forecasts suggest 25%-30% earnings growth across Europe this year and next year combined. It’s a pretty punchy recovery.”
The STOXX 600 index had ended the first quarter on Wednesday with a 7.7% rise - its fourth straight quarter of gains. But it took the benchmark index seven months more than the U.S. S&P 500 to reclaim its pre-pandemic high, slowed down by a sluggish vaccination roll-out and a new wave of infections.
President Emmanuel Macron ordered France into its third national lockdown, but the French blue-chip index 0.6% rose after a sluggish start.
Buoying global sentiment further, U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $2.3 trillion spending plan on Wednesday that includes investments in roads, railways, broadband, clean energy and semiconductor manufacture.
Chip stocks including ASML, ASMI, Infineon Technologies and BE Semiconductor all rose between 1.2% and 3.6% after U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology issued an upbeat revenue forecast.
Also boosting the sector, contract chipmaker TSMC said it plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity at its plants.
British food delivery firm Deliveroo’s shares fell 1.9% after plunging by as much as 30% in their trading debut on Wednesday.
German peer Delivery Hero jumped 3.9% after Dutch tech investment company Prosus NV raised its stake in the company.
Catering companies Sodexo and Elior slipped even as Sodexo forecast an expansion of second-half revenue after reporting a large beat on its first-half profit margin.
Swiss lender Credit Suisse rose 2.6%, but was on track for its worst week since March 2020, hit by worries about the fall-out from Archegos Capital’s dramatic meltdown. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Bernard Orr and Mark Heinrich)