Markets

European markets close higher amid optimism over US-China trade talks

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was up by almost 1 percent at the closing bell, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
  • Europe's basic resources stocks, with their heavy exposure to China, jumped around 1.6 percent.
  • France's Casino Guichard slumped toward the bottom of the index after Moody's cut its long-term ratings for the firm.

European stocks closed higher on Wednesday, as market participants monitored signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was up by almost 1 percent at the closing bell, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Europe's basic resources and autos stocks, with their heavy exposure to China, jumped around 1.6 percent on Wednesday. It comes at a time when investors are hopeful a new round of trade talks between the world's two largest economies could bring an end to a protracted dispute.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are due to resume negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington on Wednesday, shortly after both sides reported progress from talks in Beijing last week.

Looking at individual stocks, shares of German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 surged toward the top of the European benchmark, gaining almost 6 percent amid renewed speculation over a merger with Italy's Mediaset. Shares of the Italian broadcaster were up by almost 3 percent on Wednesday afternoon.

At the other end of the scale, tobacco firm Imperial Brands tumbled after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned on Wednesday that e-cigarettes could increase the risk of seizures in some users. Shares of the London-listed stock fell by 4 percent.

France's Casino Guichard also slumped toward the bottom of the index, with shares dipping 3 percent lower after Moody's cut its long-term ratings for the firm.

Meanwhile, shares on Wall Street traded higher on Wednesday as investors were more optimistic about the possibility that Sino-U.S. trade tensions would soon be resolved.

Business activity across the euro zone was sluggish last month, official data showed on Wednesday. IHS Markit's Euro Zone Composite Final Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) — widely seen as an indicator of overall economic health — stood at 51.6 in March, down from 51.9 in February.

Brexit drama

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline in order to "break the logjam" in Parliament.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, May said she wanted to meet with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a plan on the future relationship with the EU.

If nothing is passed in the House of Commons over the coming days, the world's fifth-largest economy is set to leave the bloc without a deal on April 12.