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

Key Points
  • The U.S. and China are set for high-level trade negotiations in Washington on Thursday.
  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell implies the central bank is open to further interest rate cuts.
  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly faces a potential mutiny from within his own cabinet.

European stocks closed higher Wednesday after a report that China is willing to discuss a partial trade deal with the U.S.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally 0.4% higher, with trade-sensitive autos and technology stock baskets leading gains. All sectors except utilities and retail were in positive territory.

Bloomberg reported, citing an official with direct knowledge of negotiations, that China is willing to discuss a potential accord providing no more tariffs are imposed by President Donald Trump's administration, including duties scheduled this month and in December.

Markets worldwide suffered on Tuesday as the U.S. imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials in response to the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities, having already blacklisted 28 Chinese companies over their alleged involvement in the treatment of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province, angering Beijing.

The world's two largest economies are still set for high-level trade negotiations in Washington on Thursday in the hope of finding consensus to end their protracted trade war.

Tensions are also heightened due to a stand-off between Beijing and the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) following a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

On Wall Street, markets rose on the back of the latest U.S.-China trade developments.

Back in Europe, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a potential mutiny from within his own cabinet over fears about a disorderly no-deal exit from the European Union, The Times newspaper reported Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesperson said on Tuesday that Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, in a phone conversation, had reiterated their mutual desire to agree to a Brexit deal before the October 31 deadline.

Sterling surged early on Wednesday after reports that the EU was open to granting lawmakers from all sides in Northern Ireland the opportunity to leave any potential backstop arrangement within a few years. However, the gains were erased when the concession was rejected by Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

In terms of individual stocks, British sports betting firm GVC Holdings rose over 5% after issuing its second outlook upgrade in three months. Norwegian recycling company Tomra Systems slipped around 4% to the bottom of the European blue-chip index.