European stocks higher on hopes for a Brexit trade deal

  • 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 opened 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 was up 0.5% during morning deals, with autos stocks climbing 1.6% to lead the gains. Health care stocks bucked the trend to slip around 0.3%.

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.

In Asia, stocks were higher despite Trump's remarks. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%.

On Wall Street, stock futures stood little changed in overnight trading, largely recovering from earlier declines after Trump expressed concerns with the new Covid relief package.

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 a fast-spreading Covid mutation 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. British Airways parent company IAG rose 3% to lead the sector.

Looking at individual shares, Daimler rose 3% toward the top of the Stoxx 600 following a report from Handelsblatt that the German automaker is planning to list its trucks business.

At the European benchmark, Games Workshop fell almost 2% while meal kit provider HelloFresh sank nearly 3%.

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