Markets

European markets close slightly higher with Brexit standoff in focus; Altice Europe up 24%

Key Points
  • The EU on Thursday urged the U.K. to abandon its plan to renege on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and threatened legal action.
  • On Friday, Britain announced it had secured its first major trade deal post-Brexit, agreeing in principle to a free trade deal with Japan.
  • Stateside, U.S. stocks struggled as technology names once again failed to bounce back from their recent slump. 

European markets closed slightly higher on Friday as investors monitored tense negotiations between the U.K. and the European Union.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up by 0.1%, with basic resource shares up 2.4% to lead the gains while banks on the other hand fell over 1.6%.

The EU on Thursday urged the U.K. to abandon its plan to renege on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and threatened legal action, but U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has vowed to press ahead with its Internal Market Bill, despite acknowledgment that the move violates international law.

The U.K. and the EU are currently trying to reach a trade agreement before the end of the transition period on December 31, with the U.K. set to go onto World Trade Organization rules if no agreement is reached.

On Friday, Britain announced it had secured its first major trade deal post-Brexit, agreeing in principle to a free trade deal with Japan. The tentative agreement, which will require the approval of both the U.K. and Japanese parliaments, is scheduled to come into the force at the end of the year. 

On the data front, the U.K. economy grew 6.6% in July on a monthly basis, according to initial estimates published Friday, as the economy seeks to recover from the sharp downturn caused by coronavirus-induced lockdown measures.

Stateside, U.S. stocks rose in another volatile session on Friday as tech once again attempted to rebound from its recent slump. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 190 points higher, or 0.7%. The S&P 500 climbed 0.4% while the Nasdaq Composite was flat. 

Looking at individual stocks, Anglo-Australian mining titan Rio Tinto has announced the departure of its CEO and two senior executives following an extensive shareholder campaign focusing on the company's demolition of two Aboriginal rock shelters. Shares of the firm rose over 4% on the news.

Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton owner LVMH is countersuing acquisition target Tiffany, alleging that the U.S. jeweler's mismanagement through the coronavirus pandemic invalidates a $16 billion takeover agreement. Tiffany had already filed a lawsuit against LVMH over its withdrawal from the deal. Shares of LVMH were 3% higher.

Altice Europe shares surged more than 24% after the French telecoms firm agreed around a 2.5 billion euro ($2.95 billion) takeover offer with its founder and majority shareholder, who plans to delist the company. 

At the other end of the European blue-chip index, German braking system manufacturer Knorr-Bremse fell 7% after majority shareholder Heinz Hermann Thiele sold 10 million shares in the company.