European stocks close higher; Bank of England holds rates; sterling rallies

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up around 0.2 percent with sectors and major bourses split between gainers and losers.
  • By the end of stock trading, sterling had jumped 1.58 percent to hit a session high of $1.297.
  • The sharp rally for sterling comes after the Bank of England announced it would keep interest rates unchanged.

European stocks rose on Thursday, as investors digested stronger-than-anticipated corporate earnings, while sterling rose sharply after a reported Brexit breakthrough.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally up by 0.24 percent with sectors and major bourses almost evenly split between winners and losers.

Europe's telecoms stocks led the gains on the back of robust earnings results. BT was the top sectoral performer, after raising its company outlook. Shares were 8.6 percent higher at the close.

On the other hand, oil and gas stocks fell under pressure. Tgs-Nopec Geophysical fell more than 9.8 percent after posting weaker-than-anticipated third-quarter operating profit.

Looking across the European benchmark, ASMI surged near the top of the European benchmark on Thursday, up 10.8 percent, after strong third-quarter results.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse dropped nearly 2.1 percent after missing forecasts, despite a 74 percent increase in net income from a year ago.

Brexit

Market focus is largely attuned to Brexit developments, after the Times reported U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May had agreed on terms with Brussels that would give British financial services firms continued access to European markets post-Brexit.

The news prompted pound sterling to move away from a 2-and-a-half month low reached earlier in the week. The currency had been dented on worries of an orderly exit from the European Union next year.

By the end of stock trading in Europe, sterling had jumped 1.58 percent to hit a session high of $1.297.

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Sterling's rally was also aided after the Bank of England announced it would keep interest rates unchanged on Thursday.

The Bank of England (BOE) kept its benchmark interest rates unchanged on Thursday, but hinted that a smooth Brexit could quicken the bank's rate-hiking cycle.

The BOE rate-setters voted unanimously to hold rates at 0.75 percent. In August this year, the bank raised interest rates by 25 basis points — its second time since the financial crisis.

In the United States stocks traded higher on Thursday's open, encouraged by comments from President Donald Trump over U.S.-China trade relations.