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European stocks close higher on US-China trade optimism; WPP shares down 2.5%

Key Points
  • Trump says U.S.-China trade talks are back underway, but adds that any deal would need to be somewhat tilted in Washington's favor.
  • The U.S. threatens tariffs on $4 billion of additional EU goods amid a long-running dispute with the bloc over aircraft subsidies.
  • U.K. construction activity suffers its sharpest downturn in over a decade in June, the latest PMI data shows.

European stocks finished higher on Tuesday after President Donald Trump said that trade talks with China, which had stalled in May, have "already begun" following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the weekend.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 0.4% provisionally. Utilities led the gains with a 2% rise, while oil and gas stocks fell 0.6% amid a sharp drop in crude prices.

Trump said Monday that trade talks with China were back underway after the leaders met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, but added that any deal would need to be somewhat tilted in Washington's favor. However, the White House has ratcheted up pressure on Europe recently, threatening tariffs on $4 billion of additional EU goods amid a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies. The U.S. Trade Representative's office listed olives, Italian cheese and Scotch whisky among those which could be hit with tariffs.

On Wall Street Tuesday, stocks were little changed as traders monitored global trade developments. The Dow and Nasdaq indexes were barely higher, while the S&P 500 was up 0.1%.

Focus in Europe was on the EU's third consecutive day of discussions over who should take the bloc's top jobs until 2025. Leaders from the 28 member states continued exhaustive talks Tuesday afternoon, with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde the latest name touted as the next president of the European Central Bank.

PMI data released on Tuesday showed that U.K. construction activity suffered its sharpest downturn in over a decade in June on the back of rising Brexit concern, causing the British 10-year government bond yield to fall to its lowest level since October 2016.

The 10-year German Bund yield dropped to a new all-time low of -0.363% on Tuesday morning, but recovered to push higher, aided by weak data. German retail sales were down 0.6% for the month versus a Reuters consensus of +0.5% alongside the bombing of the U.K. construction PMI.

Looking at individual stocks, Galapagos NV saw its shares trade 5% higher, to the top of the Stoxx 600, after announcing that U.S. collaborator Gilead is to submit a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this year.

At the other end of the European blue chip index, British asset management company Jupiter fell 8% after news that star European fund manager Alexander Darwall will quit to launch his own investment boutique.

In corporate news, meanwhile, British advertising giant WPP announced Monday that it is in exclusive talks to sell a majority stake in data analytics unit Kantar to private equity firm Bain Capital. The $4 billion deal is intended to steer the world's biggest advertising company back to growth. WPP's stock fell 2.5%.