Markets

European stocks close higher as investors monitor coronavirus, economic data

Key Points
  • China's National Health Commission said that as of Tuesday night, a total of 74,185 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed in the country and 2,004 people have died.
  • The EU opened a 12-week period of discussion aimed at better understanding how to protect EU citizens from what it describes as the negative impacts of AI.

European stocks closed higher on Wednesday as investors monitor the spread of the new coronavirus and fresh economic data.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up by around 0.8%, having notched a fresh record high earlier in the session. Technology shares led the gains with a 1.4% jump as all sectors and major bourses traded in positive territory.

China's National Health Commission said that as of Tuesday night, a total of 74,185 cases of the new coronavirus had been confirmed in the country and 2,004 people have died. A slight slowing of the rate of new cases has lifted investor sentiment, while markets are also monitoring China's attempted return to production following a prolonged shutdown which has sparked fears over global supply chains.

On Wall Street, equities rose with tech shares leading the gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 150 points while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes were also positive.

Back in Europe, the EU opened a 12-week period of discussion on Wednesday aimed at better understanding how to protect EU citizens from what it describes as the negative impacts of AI. The bloc is also looking to rein in U.S. data behemoths like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Meanwhile the EU's top competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, told CNBC on Tuesday that the prospect of the U.S. government taking a stake in top European 5G players Nokia and Ericsson was not off the table, providing there is no security risk.

Both the EU and the U.K. have struck defiant tones ahead of negotiations over a new trade deal following Britain's exit from the bloc, and Reuters reported Tuesday that the EU had hardened its stance, demanding fair competition guarantees which will "stand the test of time."

On the data front, U.K. inflation unexpectedly hit a six-month high in January, with consumer prices rising at an annual rate of 1.8% versus 1.3% in December. The proximity to the Bank of England's 2% target means the central bank will likely steer clear of rate cuts in the immediate future.

Stocks on the move

Puma shares jumped 11% after the German sportswear brand beat fourth-quarter sales and earnings expectations, and said it still hopes to reach 2020 targets despite an expected first-quarter hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

Deutsche Telekom on Wednesday forecast that growth in its core earnings would slow to 3% this year after a strong fourth quarter. Europe's largest mobile operator projected adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization hit 25.5 billion euros ($27.5 billion), missing analyst expectations. Deutsche Telekom shares gained 4%.

At the bottom of the European benchmark, NMC Health fell 7% as Krupa Global Investments confirmed that it will not take a strategic stake in the Abu Dhabi-based hospital chain after key board members stepped down over share holding disclosures.

Ageas shares meanwhile fell 5% after the Belgian insurer missed full-year earnings expectations and warned of the direct impact of claims linked to the coronavirus outbreak.