Europe markets close higher after fresh US-China trade comments; WPP up 5%

  • Trade uncertainty between China and the U.S. continued to weigh on market sentiment.
  • In economic news, euro zone inflation numbers showed an increase in February.

European stocks traded higher Friday, beginning the first trading day of March on a positive note.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally up 0.35 percent with almost every sector in positive territory. Autos were the top performing sector, with Faurecia leading the gains, up more than 5 percent. The French auto equipment firm said that it's to buy Clarion and launch a Japan-based business group in April.

Looking at individual stocks, WPP surged towards the top of the European benchmark after the company said it had seen a good reaction to its restructuring plan. Top performer Moncler gained 10.5 percent after the Milan-listed company presented "remarkable" results, according to Jefferies.

Rightmove, on the other hand, fell toward the bottom of the index after presenting its full-year results. Elsewhere, British hedge fund Man Group's shares fell 2.6 percent on Friday after it said its assets under management slipped 0.5 percent last year on market weakness and currency losses.

Oil giant Shell also saw shares slip slightly after confirmation that it's facing multiple charges over corruption, emissions, and an explosion at its Moerdijk facility in 2014.

Trade uncertainty

Trade uncertainty between China and the U.S. continued to weigh on market sentiment. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told CNBC Thursday that trade discussions between the two nations had been going well, with "fantastic" progress being made in the last week. This comes after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer showed skepticism and highlighted outstanding issues with negotiations in a testimony earlier this week.

In Europe, investors continue to await further news surrounding the U.K.'s impending departure from the European Union. Market watchers question whether the U.K. will exit the EU at the end of March, with or without a deal — or go for an alternative, such as a "People's Vote" or briefly delaying the departure date.

In economic news, euro zone inflation numbers showed an increase in February. Consumer inflation hit 1.5 percent last month, from a previous 1.4 percent reading in January. Nonetheless, core inflation, excluding food and energy, only stood at 1.2 percent — still short of the European Central Bank's target of close to but below 2 percent.

U.S. stocks rose on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.2 percent as shares of Nike and Boeing initially outperformed.