European stocks close higher on hopes for a Brexit trade deal

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Key Points
  • EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was making a “final push” to strike a Brexit trade deal with Britain.
  • President Donald Trump suggested he may not sign the $900 billion Covid relief bill passed by Congress earlier this week.
  • France reopened its border to England, requiring passengers arriving at the border to have a negative coronavirus test result.

LONDON — European markets closed higher on Wednesday as investors hoped a Brexit trade deal could be reached amid concerns over the approval of a long-delayed U.S. coronavirus stimulus package.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index provisionally closed up 1.1%, with travel and leisure stocks climbing 3.67% to lead the gains. Health care stocks bucked the trend to slip around 0.4%.

On Tuesday, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was making a “final push” to strike a Brexit trade deal with Britain, but disagreements over fishing rights remain. There have been positive reports about the talks, with the ITV’s Robert Peston claiming a deal could be reached on Wednesday.

Stateside, President Donald Trump on Tuesday suggested he may not sign the $900 billion Covid relief bill passed by Congress earlier this week. Trump called the measure an unsuitable “disgrace” and urged lawmakers to make a number of changes, including larger direct payments to individuals and families.

On Wall Street, the major U.S. indexes were moderately higher in the opening moments of trading on Wednesday. The Dow gained about 130 points, and the S&P 500 added 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite lagged with a gain of 0.2%.

Back in Europe, France reopened its border to England on Wednesday, requiring passengers arriving at the border to have a negative coronavirus test result. It comes after France imposed a ban on people and freight coming from the U.K. amid concerns over the apparently fast-spreading Covid strain first identified in southeast England.

Concerns over the economic impact of Britain’s tough new lockdown measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus strain, as well as ongoing Brexit uncertainty, have weighed on investor sentiment recently.

Travel and leisure shares got a boost from news that France had lifted its travel restrictions Wednesday. Sector leaders included German airline Lufthansa, which was up 4.3%, and aircraft manufacturer Airbus, up 4.6%.

Looking at individual shares, financial institution Lloyds rose 7% toward the top of the Stoxx 600.

In the European benchmark, German medical packaging manufacturer Gerresheimer fell 2.8% while meal kit provider HelloFresh sank more than 5%.

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