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Europe markets close higher amid Brexit confusion; Lufthansa shares fall 6%

Key Points
  • Market participants monitored the latest Brexit developments on Thursday.
  • Last night, U.K. lawmakers rejected the idea of leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal, setting up another vote Thursday on whether its official departure date should be extended.

European markets closed higher on Thursday, as investors monitored the latest flurry of corporate results and reacted to Brexit developments in the U.K.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.8 percent higher provisionally with most sectors and major bourses finishing in positive territory. Europe's oil and gas stocks were some of the best performers along with media and insurance.

Looking at individual stocks, Germany's Gea Group surged to the top of the European benchmark amid earnings news. The Dusseldorf-based group reported that full-year revenue rose almost 5 percent in 2018, prompting shares to jump 10 percent.

Sticking in Germany, Lufthansa tumbled to the bottom of the index during morning trade. The country's biggest airline posted an 11 percent fall in fourth-quarter operating profits on Thursday, saying it would focus on "quality" growth over the coming months. Shares of the firm tumbled almost 6 percent on the news.

Leonardo shares rose 12 percent after the Italian defense group said its net profit had surged, adding that sales were expected to rise in 2019. 

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On Wall Street, stocks were little changed on Thursday following weaker-than-expected housing data.

Brexit chaos

Market participants monitored the latest Brexit developments on Thursday. Last night, U.K. lawmakers rejected the idea of leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal, setting up another vote Thursday on whether its official departure date should be extended.

Sterling surged on Wednesday, hitting nine-month highs against the dollar, but lost some of those gains on Thursday. By 4:30 p.m. London time the pound was trading at $1.3265.

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