(Alliance News) - On Friday, European stock markets -- with Milan tagging along -- opened in a bullish trend, helped by the publications of annual results that are boosting the 'buy' side of the boards. Also pushing purchases was yesterday's data on US retail sales, which fell more than expected in January.

Conversely, still on the monetary policy side, another report showed that weekly applications for benefits unexpectedly fell to 212,000, below market expectations of 220,000.

Just on the monetary policy front, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said this week that despite progress in fighting inflation, he is not ready to call for interest rate cuts because of ongoing risks. Chicago Fed's Austan Goolsbee, on the other hand, said instead that the central bank should be cautious about waiting too long before cutting rates.

Among the day's macro data, U.K. retail sales came in stronger than expected, in a much-needed glimmer of light for the economy, which entered a technical recession according to Thursday's data.

According to the Office for National Statistics, sales rose 3.4 percent on a monthly basis, exceeding the 1.5 percent growth predicted by a Reuters poll. This is the largest monthly increase since April 2021, and follows December's record decline that hit retailers during the key month of the vacation season.

Thus, the FTSE Mib marks a green of 0.7 percent to 31,915.01.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100 advances 0.6 percent, Frankfurt's DAX 40 is positive with 0.6 percent, and Paris' CAC 40 marks a green of 0.5 percent.

Among the smaller listings, the Mid-Cap rises 0.7 percent to 45,522.67, the Small-Cap is up 0.3 percent to 27,597.36, and Italy Growth is just above par at 8,127.51.

On the Mib, Tenaris advances 1.7 percent to EUR15.21 per share, on the heels of the eve's 1.5 percent green close.

Also advancing well is Stellantis, which moves ahead 1.5%, updating a new 52-week high to EUR24.17 per share.

Unipol--up 16%--reported on Friday that it had reported profit rising to EUR1.33 billion in 2023 from EUR866 million a year earlier. Following strong 2023 figures, the company decided to raise the dividend to EUR0.38 from EUR0.37 a year earlier.

Unipol's board approved the merger of UnipolSai--and other subsidiaries--by launching a takeover bid on the latter at EUR2.70 per share.

The board of Eni -- down 0.5 percent -- on Friday disclosed that it had approved consolidated results for the year and the fourth quarter of 2023, which closed with a net profit of EUR4.75 billion from EUR13.89 billion in the previous year.

On the Mid-Cap, Salvatore Ferragamo advances 1.8 percent with price at EUR12.92, in its third bullish session.

Fincantieri - up 0.6 percent - announced Thursday that it has completed the acquisition of the entire capital of Remazel Engineering Spa from Advanced Technology Industrial SA. As previously reported, the consideration paid for 100 percent of the capital was EUR65 million.

Doing best of all is UnipolSai, which brings forward more than 11 percent. The board announced that it had analyzed preliminary results for fiscal year 2023, a period that ended with a consolidated net profit of EUR766 million, up from EUR651 million a year ago. The board then proposed the distribution of a slightly increased dividend, rising to EUR0.165 from EUR0.16 in 2022.

Among the bearers is Saras, which is giving up 0.4 percent to EUR1.74 per share after two bullish sessions.

On the Small-Cap, Alkemy is up 2.7 percent, with price at EUR10.50 after a 6.1 percent decline in the eve.

RCS Media Group advances 2.6 percent to EUR0.75 per share after 0.5 percent red on eve.

Olidata, on the other hand, advances 2.4 percent, with new price at EUR0.65 per share, after 3.8 percent down on eve.

Fidia, on the other hand, is giving up 4.6 percent to EUR0.3130 per share on the heels of eve's 3.2 percent loss.

Among SMEs, Bellini Nautica is advancing 6.7 percent, rearing its head after three sessions closed in the red.

Farmacosmo - up 0.5 percent - on Thursday evening announced that the closing with G&Ph Holding S.r.l. and Innovation Pharma S.p.A. was finalized for the sale of the company's stake in the capital of the latter and the simultaneous purchase of a 67 percent representative stake in Farmacia De Leo S.r.l.

Leone Film Group -- up 3.3 percent -- reported Thursday that revenues in 2023 stood at EUR85.5 million from EUR56.2 million in the same period last year and up 52 percent.

Among the few bearers, at the tail end was Visibilia, which posted a minus 4.1% at EUR0.1630.

In New York, the Dow has rallied 0.9 percent, the Nasdaq is advancing 0.3 percent, and the S&P 500 is marking plus 0.6 percent.

Among Asian exchanges, the Nikkei picked up 0.9 percent, the Hang Seng closed in the green with 2.5 percent, while the Shanghai Composite picked up 1.3 percent.

Among currencies, the euro changed hands at USD1.0766 against USD1.0760 recorded in Thursday's European stock close, while the pound was worth USD1.2581 from USD1.2576 on Thursday evening.

Brent crude is worth USD82.70 per barrel versus USD82.96 per barrel at Thursday's close. Gold, meanwhile, trades at USD2,004.79 an ounce from USD2,012.50 an ounce last night.

Friday's calendar includes, at 1430 CET, data on constriction permits and the index of major U.S. producer prices.

Among the companies listed on Piazza Affari, the results of Esautomotion, Farmacosmo, Imprendiroma, Juventus Football Club, Laboratorio Farmaceutico Erfo and VNE are expected.

By Maurizio Carta, Alliance News reporter

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