LONDON — European stocks closed higher Thursday as hopes of substantial fiscal stimulus from the incoming U.S. administration and positive Covid-19 vaccine news boosted sentiment.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session up by 0.7%, with travel and leisure shares climbing 1.9% to lead gains while utilities slid 0.4%.
European markets started the trading day on a cautious note, as investors monitored the ongoing battle with a rise in coronavirus cases. Vaccination rollouts across the continent have raised hopes that an end to the pandemic is on its way, however.
More good news on the vaccine front emerged on Wednesday as early trial data published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed Johnson & Johnson's one-shot Covid vaccine is safe and appears to generate an immune response in both young and elderly volunteers.
U.S. political turbulence remains in focus after House members voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time — making him the first U.S. president ever to be impeached twice — as a bipartisan majority charged him with inciting a riot in the U.S. Capitol last week.
On Wall Street, stocks rose as traders weighed U.S. stimulus developments and promising vaccine news versus pressure from weak economic data and political turmoil.
Meanwhile, stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday as investors regionally reacted to Chinese trade data for December that showed the country's exports rose 18.1% in December as compared with a year earlier. That was higher than expectations for a 15% increase by analysts in a Reuters poll.
Meanwhile, China's imports grew 6.5% year on year in December, as compared with expectations for a 5% rise in a Reuters poll.
Back in Europe, the German economy shrank by 5% in 2020, according to preliminary data published Thursday, slightly beating the -5.1% expected by economists polled by Reuters.
In terms of individual share price movement, Dutch semiconductor firm ASM International climbed 7.6% after Barclays raised its target price.
Toward the bottom of the European blue chip index, Carrefour shares dropped 2.5% after the French labor minister voiced opposition to a proposed takeover of the retail giant by Canada's Alimentation Couche-Tard.
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