Europe Markets

European markets close higher as investors monitor Brexit talks; STMicro falls 12%

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Key Points
  • Market attention is focused on the state of Brexit talks this week. 
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Brussels later Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to secure a Brexit trade deal.
  • He will meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after negotiators failed to make significant progress when talks resumed on Monday.

LONDON — European stocks closed higher on Wednesday as market focus in the region remains firmly on the progress of post-Brexit trade deal talks between the EU and U.K.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index provisionally closed 0.4% higher with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory. Autos stocks were the top performers, climbing nearly 1.5%.

Market attention is focused on the state of Brexit talks this week. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Brussels later Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to secure a Brexit trade deal. He will meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after negotiators failed to make significant progress when talks resumed on Monday.

Coronavirus vaccine optimism is also buoying market sentiment. The U.K. administered the first Covid-19 vaccines to the public on Tuesday, making it one of the first countries in the world to do so.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shots gained emergency approval from the U.K. drug regulator last week and will be given first to frontline health workers, nursing home workers and those over age 80.

On Wall Street, stocks slipped from record highs set earlier in the day as traders weigh the prospects of new fiscal stimulus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Tuesday that data from Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine trials was consistent with recommendations put forth by the agency for an emergency use authorization. It also said the vaccine was highly effective and did not raise any specific safety concerns. The FDA is holding an advisory meeting Thursday to review Pfizer's vaccine.

In individual stocks news, Just Eat Takeaway and Delivery Hero climbed around 8% and 7%, respectively. It comes after U.S. food delivery giant DoorDash priced its shares at $102 apiece, above an expected range, ahead of a hotly-anticipated initial public offering.

STMicro saw its shares slip nearly 12% to the bottom of the Stoxx 600, after the chipmaker said it's postponing an annual sales target of $12 billion to 2023.

Howden Joinery rose nearly 5% after the British kitchen supplier said pre-tax profits for the year would likely beat expectations.

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- CNBC.com staff contributed to this market report.