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European stocks close higher on Lagarde's nomination as the next ECB chief

Key Points
  • EU leaders agree to nominate IMF chief Christine Lagarde as the new head of the ECB.
  • U.S. stocks edge higher as traders bet the Fed will cut interest rates later this month.
  • Osram climbs to the top of the pan-European Stoxx 600 amid takeover speculation.

European stocks closed sharply higher Wednesday as EU leaders agreed on nominees to lead the bloc's main institutions for the next five years following a marathon summit.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up by 0.8%, with the majority of sectors and all major bourses in positive territory. Travel and leisure stocks led the gains with a 2% jump.

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

European Union leaders agreed on Tuesday to nominate International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde as the new head of the European Central Bank. Euro zone bond yields tumbled on the news, and defensive stocks rallied as investors staked bets that the incoming head of the ECB will be a fan of low interest rates.

"Our impression is that she will lean towards a pragmatic dovish stance," Frederik Ducrozet, strategist at Pictet Wealth Management, wrote in a note Wednesday. "More fundmanetally, she should provide continuity" after current ECB President Mario Draghi leaves, "an important driving factor for markets."

Germany's Ursula von der Leyen was proposed to replace European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Belgium's Charles Michel for European Council president, and Spain's Josep Borrell for EU foreign policy chief, after three days of grueling summit negotiations. The deal must now be approved by the European Parliament.

On Wall Street, stocks edged higher as traders bet the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates later this month, amid heightened concerns of an economic slowdown. Such optimism was supported by disappointing private payrolls data released Wednesday.

In terms of individual stock moves, Osram rose by about 11.5%, to the top of the European blue chip index, amid takeover speculation. The German lighting firm's supervisory board will gather Thursday to discuss a takeover offer from private equity firms Bain and Carlyle, Reuters reported, citing sources.

Meanwhile, Finnish engineering group Wartsila was among the worst performers, shedding almost 3% after J.P. Morgan cut its stock from "overweight" to "underweight" and slashed its price target due to concerns about earnings growth.

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal reported that Deutsche Bank has held talks with Citigroup, BNP Paribas and others about a possible transfer of parts of its equities business. Shares of the German lender climbed nearly 2.7%.

In terms of data, PMI surveys published Wednesday collectively indicated that the U.K. economy has slipped into contraction for the first time since July 2016, and has suffered the second-sharpest decline in output since the peak of the global financial crisis in April 2009 against the backdrop of Brexit and concerns about the world economy.