Europe markets up at open; Greece returns to spotlight

European equities traded lower Friday, in spite of hopes that the region might make it six straight weeks of gains thanks to investor sentiment in Asia and the U.S and the start of the European Central Bank’s bond buying program.

The FTSE (FTSE International: .FTSE) was trading 0.17 percent down, the German DAX (XETRA: .GDAXI) was off 0.13 percent while the French CAC (Euronext Paris: .FCHI) lost 0.14 percent.

Shares in Italian luxury group Tod’s were suspended after they fell by around 6 percent in early trade on Friday, after the company blamed weakening sales at the start of 2014 on lower Chinese consumer demand.

On Thursday, U.S. stocks bounced back from two days of losses on the back of a weaker dollar and as mixed economic data tapered expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike rates mid-year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 closed up more than 1 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq advanced 0.9 percent.

Also Friday, Russia’s central bank cut its main interest rate further in aneffort to stimulate the country’s sanctions-hit economy. The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) cut the key rate by 1 percentage point to 14 percent. The Russian ruble strengthened against the dollar following the decision.

In Asia Friday, Japanese stocks tracked the positive lead from Wall Street to hit a fresh multi-year high, breaching the 19,000 level, as major indices in the region largely rose.

Greece remained in the spotlight again on Friday as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president. It is expected to repay a 340 million euros ($ 360 million) tranche of its loan from the International Monetary Fund back today.

Tsipras described the meeting as “productive” on Friday morning.

During a visit to meet his Austrian counterpart Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Greece had to help itself but was “certainly not a hopeless case.”

He could not rule out an accidental exit of the country from the euro zone, a “Grexident,” however, he told Austrian broadcaster ORF, Reuters reported. As the country faces a cash crunch, it has debt obligations to meet and must pay another loan back to the IMF on Friday.

Investors will keep an eye on Spanish bank Sabadell (Mercado Continuo: SAB-ES) after a report by Reuters Thursday, citing an unnamed source, said the bank was considering a 1.5 billion euros ($ 1.6 billion) capital hike via a share issue to fund a possible bid for British bank TSB (London Stock Exchange: TSB-GB).

JD Wetherspoon (London Stock Exchange: JDW-GB), the U.K. pub operator, reported revenues were up 9 per cent in the 26 weeks to January 25, compared to the same time a year earlier, at £744.4 million ($ 1.1 billion). Its shares fell around 2 percent at the open

Shares in pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (London Stock Exchange: GSK-GB) rose after it announced the sale of half its stake in South African drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare (Johannesburg Stock Exchange: APN-ZA) for $ 853 million.

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