European markets close higher despite coronavirus fears; Heineken up 6%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally 0.6% higher, with most sectors and bourses positive.
  • In corporate news, Heineken said its CEO will step down on June 1, news that sent the stock 5% higher.

European markets closed higher Wednesday as traders monitored corporate earnings and the spread of the new coronavirus.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up 0.6%, hitting a record high as most sectors and major bourses were in positive territory. Autos shares soared 3.8% to lead gains while utilities bucked the upward trend to fall 0.4%.

China's National Health Commission reported 2,015 new cases of coronavirus and 97 deaths across the mainland on Wednesday. The outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has killed 1,113 people in the country, has led to the shutting down of factories, businesses and transportation in China.

On Wall Street, stocks rose with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 180 points while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes were also in the green.

Back in Europe, euro zone manufacturing output plunged more than expected in December, falling 2.1% month-on-month against the expected 1.6% slide, according to Eurostat.

In corporate news, Heineken's CEO will step down on June 1. Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, who has held the chief executive position for 15 years, will be replaced by the head of the company's Asia-Pacific region.

The announcement came ahead of the company's full year earnings report on Wednesday. The world's second-largest beer maker projected operating profit in 2020 to grow by a mid-single digit percentage after 2019 earnings came in level with expectations. Heineken stock jumped 5%.

Earnings in focus

Dutch lender ABN Amro missed fourth-quarter earnings expectations, sending the stock tumbling 6% to the bottom of the Stoxx 600.

Sweden's Evolution Gaming surged nearly 15% to a record high after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings, while NMC Health's London-listed shares jumped 10% after recording a 17% fall on Tuesday as it juggles a short-selling attack and investigation of shareholder disclosures.