European stocks ended sharply higher on Wednesday, helped by a rally in mining and banking stocks, following better-than-expected China export data.
The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up some 2.5 percent provisionally, with all sectors posting solid gains. London's FTSE 100 saw gains of 1.9 percent, and Germany's DAX jumped 2.7 percent by Europe's close.
Sentiment got a boost after data from China's General Administration of Customs showed the country's dollar-denominated exports for March increased 11.5 percent on-year, which exceeded forecasts.
As China being a major consumer of metals, spot metal prices jumped on the back of this news. On Wednesday, Europe's basic resources sector jumped to close 7.1 percent up. Shares of Glencore and Rio Tinto rallied over 6.5 percent each, while Arcelormittal's stock soared 9.6 percent, after it received a rating and target price upgrade from Credit Suisse.
Oil markets remained in focus for investors ahead of a closely-watched meeting on April 17 between OPEC and non-OPEC producers which is aimed at freezing current output levels. Oil prices came under pressure on Wednesday, as concerns continued to brew over what would actually be achieved at the meeting.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi appeared to rule out a crude output cut in comments seen in the al-Hayat newspaper, causing oil prices to slip. However, prices pared some losses following mixed U.S. government data on crude stockpiles and gasoline demand. Brent crude was off more than 0.7 percent at Europe's close, trading at $44.25, while U.S. crude fell to hover around $41.80. Still, oil stocks remained strong, with Tullow Oil, Subsea 7 and Repsol, all closing above 6 percent each.
Despite the decline in oil prices, markets held their gains, with U.S. indexes trading higher around Europe's close, boosted by China.
The Italian banks were trading sharply higher on Wednesday. Earlier this week, leading financial institutions in the country agreed to set up a multi-billion state-backed fund to help tackle bad bank loans on Monday evening.
And on Wednesday, Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan, told newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, that there is no risk that European authorities such as the European Central Bank or European Commission, will block plans for the bank fund. BMPS, Banca Popolare di Milano and Unicredit all finished the session above 7.5 percent, with the overall sector closing 6.3 percent up.
Elsewhere in the banking sector, a senior official at top Credit Suisse shareholder Harris Associates said the Swiss lender took the right steps by shrinking the investment bank and pivoting to wealth management. Shares of Credit Suisse jumped over 8 percent.
On the earnings front, Tesco reported a 0.9 percent rise in U.K. like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to February 27, its first quarter of underlying U.K. sales growth for over three years. And the British supermarket giant also said that operating profit before one-off items for the year came in at £944 million ($1.3 billion).
Despite the positive results, Tesco shares fell near the bottom of Europe's benchmarks, closing 7.8 percent lower, as it dampened profit growth expectations. The decline dragged down fellow U.K. retailer WM Morrison, which closed 2 percent down.