Markets

European markets close higher but sterling hovers near 20-month lows

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up around 1.8 percent on Tuesday, with all sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
  • Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, after Beijing confirmed it was still in talks with Washington in an effort to broker a comprehensive trade agreement.
  • WPP rose toward the top of the European benchmark after the company announced it would cut 2,500 jobs over three years and spend £300 million ($382 million) to return the world's biggest advertising group to growth.

European stocks rallied Tuesday, as the world's two largest economies sought to push forward with the next stage of trade talks.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up around 1.8 percent during deals, with all sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Europe's basic resources sector — with their heavy exposure to China — were the top performers, up more than 3.6 percent amid renewed hopes of a trade agreement between Washington and Beijing. China's Vice Premier Liu reportedly confirmed the world's second-largest economy was still in talks with the U.S. in an effort to broker a comprehensive trade agreement on Tuesday. Antofagasta, Anglo American and Rio Tinto all rose more than 3 percent on the news.

Looking at individual stocks, WPP announced it would cut 2,500 jobs over three years and spend £300 million ($382 million) as new boss Mark Read bids to return the world's biggest advertising group to growth. Shares of the company rose sharply.

Meanwhile, Standard Life Aberdeen slumped toward the bottom of the European benchmark after RBC cut its stock recommendation for the group to "sector perform."

Back in Europe, overall sentiment remained relatively fragile amid deepening political turmoil over the U.K. government's proposed Brexit deal. Prime Minister Theresa May abruptly postponed a parliamentary vote on Monday, sending sterling down to 20-month lows.

The pound took a further leg lower following a tweet from one journalist claiming that Theresa May was set to face a leadership challenge from lawmakers within her own party.

The U.K. currency was trading at around $1.2512 against the U.S. dollar at around 4:30 p.m. London time.

On the data front, German economic sentiment improved slightly in December, the ZEW research institute reported Tuesday, but warned fourth-quarter growth was set to be weaker-than expected amid risks to exports from Brexit.

The ZEW indicator showed sentiment rising up to -17.5 from -24.1 in November. A Reuters consensus forecast had anticipated -25.0.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, was down around 0.1 percent Tuesday morning.