LONDON – European markets closed higher on Wednesday as investors hoped a Brexit trade deal could be reached amid concerns over approval of a long-belated US coronavirus stimulus package.
The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 Index tentatively closed 1.1% with travel and leisure stocks rising 3.67% to lead profits. Healthcare stocks bucked the trend, slipping 0.4%.
On Tuesday, EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, said the bloc was making a "final push" towards a Brexit trade deal with the UK, but disagreements persist over fishing rights. There were positive reports of the talks, with ITV's Robert Peston claiming an agreement could be reached on Wednesday.
In the US, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump proposed not to sign the US $ 900 billion Covid Aid bill passed by Congress earlier this week. Trump called the move an inappropriate "disgrace" and urged lawmakers to make a number of changes, including larger direct payments to individuals and families.
On Wall Street, major US indices were moderately higher in the opening moments of trading on Wednesday. The Dow was up 130 points and the S&P 500 was up 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite lagged 0.2%.
Back in Europe, France reopened its border with England on Wednesday. Passengers arriving at the border must have a negative coronavirus test result. It did so after France imposed a ban on people and cargo from the UK amid concerns about the apparently fast-spreading strain of Covid first identified in the south-east of England.
Concerns about the economic impact of the UK's tough new lockdown measures to contain the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, as well as ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, have weighed on investor sentiment recently.
Travel and leisure stocks got a boost from news that France lifted its travel restrictions on Wednesday. The industry leaders included the German airline Lufthansa with an increase of 4.3% and the aircraft manufacturer Airbus with an increase of 4.6%.
In terms of individual stocks, financial institution Lloyds rose 7% to top the Stoxx 600.
In the European benchmark, the German manufacturer of medical packaging Gerresheimer fell by 2.8%, while the supplier of meal sets HelloFresh fell by more than 5%.