Europe Markets

Europe ends sharply higher despite geopolitical tensions


European equities closed firmly in positive territory on Wednesday after some encouraging corporate results helped lift sentiment.

Strong corporate results

The pan-European STOXX 600 ended around 1.5 percent higher with all major indices in the black. A number of positive corporate announcements helped distract markets from geopolitical tensions.

Germany's DAX surged to close over 2 percent higher, led by retailer Metro, which saw shares surge close to 6 percent after it raised its 2015 dividend payout by more than expected.

Construction materials giant LafargeHolcim also saw shares end over 4 percent higher despite its third-quarter sales falling. The firm also announced plans to raise its dividend. The French CAC finished up 1.5 percent.

Travel firm Thomas Cook was the best performer on the STOXX 600 with shares up over 10 percent, after it swung to full-year profit for the first time since 2015 and said it was confident in 2016 as it was seeing strong holiday demand.

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UK homebuilders rally

In other news, British finance minister George Osborne presented his spending review (a 5-year projection of government spending) and Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Osborne pledged to put "security first" as he delivered the spending plans which will outline how the Conservative government hopes spending cuts in government and welfare will turn the budget deficit into a surplus by the end of the decade.

Home builders rallied on expectations that Osborne will outline further measures to help boost construction and assist first time buyers. Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon and Barratt Development and Berkeley Group all climbed as much as 5 percent higher to the top of London's FTSE 100, which ended just shy of 1 percent higher.

"Bricks and mortar took center stage in Westminster today.The pledge to build 400,000 new houses by the end of the decade is a staggering ambition and one which would mean current levels of housing construction increase by 50 percent. The major house builders, such as Barratt and Taylor Wimpey, are currently building around 15,000 homes a year each, and their present strategy is to not increase this, so any acceleration would mark a significant change of direction," said Colin Morton, U.K. portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton.

US data

U.S. stocks tried to hold slight gains in choppy trade Wednesday amid a slew of economic reports.

The tried for gains as health care and consumer stocks advanced. Energy traded half a percent lower after falling more than 1 percent.

Oil came off session lows after the EIA said U.S. crude inventories rose by 1 million barrels.

WTI and Brent both traded over 1 percent lower at $42.38 and $45.46 per barrel respectively after the U.S. government reported weekly crude oil inventories rose less than suggested by an earlier industry reading.

Miners under pressure

Elsewhere, Anglo American shares tumbled around 8 percent to the bottom of indices after HSBC and Goldman Sachs cut their price target for the stock. HSBC said cost and dividend cutting at the group might not stop the cash burn at the company.

The news dragged other basic resources companies down including Lonmin, Glencore Arcelormittal and BHP Billiton