Europe Markets

Europe closes higher as Britain officially pulls Brexit trigger; LSE Group jumps 2.7%


European stocks closed higher on Wednesday as investors digested the official start of Britain's much-anticipated Brexit proceedings.

The Stoxx 600 ended 0.33 percent higher with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

The German DAX touched a new multi-year high on Wednesday as it hit 12,326 for the first time since April 2015. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 and French CAC also moved higher and were both more than 0.41 percent up at the close.

Financial services led the gains on Wednesday, up more than 1. percent at the close. London Stock Exchange Group was among the best performers after its proposed merger with Deutsche Boerse was blocked by the European Union's antitrust watchdog. Its shares moved 2.7 percent higher.

In contrast, banks led the losses as the European Banking Federation urged the EU and British negotiators to provide clarity on the U.K.'s withdrawal from the bloc and the subsequent ramifications for lenders on the continent. Swedish bank SEB, which also announced it was going ex-dividend, moved towards the bottom on the benchmark on Wednesday and its shares were down over 5.8 percent.

Travel & leisure stocks ended under pressure as the chief marketing officer of low-cost Irish airline Ryanair told CNBC it expects to be unable to operate flights between the U.K. and the EU if a new airline deal is not achieved within the two-year Brexit negotiation period. Its shares were down 0.8 percent on the news.

Sterling took a battering during morning trade on Wednesday after the British government sent a letter to Brussels formally starting the country's exit from the European Union. However, it has since recovered against the dollar to hit a day's high of $1.24.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average and broader S&P 500 continued mixed. The blue-chips index snapped an eight-day losing streak in the previous session though appeared on track to add to losses on Wednesday.

European Council President Donald Tusk said via Twitter he had received the handwritten letter from U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May which had outlined Britain's intention to leave the bloc. At around 1.40 p.m Brussels time, he said "after nine months, the U.K. has delivered Brexit" and was pictured with the signed letter from May.

Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Germany's Council of Economic Experts to assess the country's on-going economic development. Merkel described the U.K.'s formal triggering of Article 50 as "regrettable".

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