European markets closed higher on Wednesday, as investors reacted to the release of sweeping reforms for the continent's financial sector.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally almost 0.5 percent higher, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
Gains among technology, autos, oil and industrials stocks supported indexes Wednesday despite expectations of cautious trading amid the introduction of new market rules from the EU.
In corporate news, Next upgraded its full-year profit forecast on Wednesday, sending shares more than 6 percent higher. The British clothing retailer said it beat guidance for sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas as cold weather boosted the sale of winter clothes.
Embattled retailer Steinhoff extended gains from Tuesday's session, leaping to the top of the European benchmark. The firm, which has been engulfed in an accounting scandal, said Tuesday that it may have to restate its accounts "for years prior to 2015." Shares of the firm shot up by 32 percent.
While falls were limited, British-based recruiter Hays slumped towards the bottom of the benchmark in mid-morning trade. Credit Suisse cut its stock recommendation for the firm to "neutral" from "outperform" on Wednesday. Its shares were down 2.56 percent.
Meanwhile, telecommunications and cable firm Altice got a boost after French broadcaster M6 said it had signed a distribution agreement with the company's SFR subsidiary. The company's stock edged toward the top of the Stoxx 600, up more than 7 percent.
On the data front, investors monitored the much-anticipated introduction of a colossal piece of European Union (EU) legislation on Wednesday. The revamped version of Europe's Markets in Financial Instruments Directive — often referred to as Mifid II —is due to come into effect on January 3, impacting every corner of the continent's financial services system.
In commodities, oil prices hit their highest level in 2½ years after major pipelines in Britain and Libya restarted and U.S. production surged to its strongest rate in more than four decades. Brent crude traded at around $67.52 a barrel on Wednesday at 4:46 p.m., up 0.95 percent, while U.S. crude was seen at $61.39, up 1.02 percent.