European markets finished higher Wednesday as investors digested new data out of China, while eyeing the latest moves in the oil price.
Health care rises
The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.7 percent provisionally, with most sectors finishing in positive territory. Health care stocks led the gains, with Shire and AstraZeneca seeing sharp gains. This came after Pfizer and Allergan announced they are to mutually terminate their merger.
Oil prices saw signs of recovery on Wednesday, buoying equities in the energy sector. U.S. crude oil futures extended earlier gains to trade 4.5 percent higher at the European close after weekly crude inventories from the EIA showed a draw of 4.9 million barrels.
Strong China data
Asian markets closed mixed on Wednesday, however markets ticked higher in trade after a survey revealed that China's service sector strengthened in March, with the Caixin services purchasing managers' index (PMI) for March rising to 52.2, up from February's reading of 51.2. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Following on from a weak set of final PMI figures for the euro zone on Tuesday, data out Wednesday revealed that German industrial output had fallen 0.5 percent in February on the month, down from a 2.3 percent rise seen in January. However, in comparison to a Reuters poll, this industrial figure came in above expectations showing how it might deliver a "modest push" for the economy in 2016's Q1.
Investors in Europe and the U.S. will also be keeping an eye out for the latest set of FOMC minutes due out at 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. UK time), after Europe's close. The event may be able to provide some insight on how policymakers' opinions diverge, following recent dovish tones from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.
"The FOMC members need to put on a united front with a clear message that confirms that they are on the same page. It is bizarre for the FOMC members not to parade their solidarity. Showing a distorted front and issuing their own agenda will only make for a muddy message," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade, said in a note.
H&M shares pop
In individual stocks news, Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut jumped to the top of benchmarks, up over 8 percent, after the company announced that sales had risen 5.6 percent to 3.42 billion Swiss francs ($3.56 billion) during the first half of the fiscal year, ending in February.
Fashion retailer H&M announced first-quarter earnings for 2016, with the firm reporting that sales had increased by 9 percent in local currencies, with its gross profit coming in at 22.7 billion Swedish krona ($2.79 billion). Shares popped and closed 5 percent higher, with other retailers jumping on the news, including Next.
Shares of airline group Air France-KLM sunk more than 3 percent, following the announcement that its CEO Alexandre de Juniac would be stepping down.