European stocks closed with small gains Wednesday, helping the region’s benchmark to a fresh 21-month high.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.34% edged up 0.2% to finish at 396.45, its highest closing level since August 2015.
That comes after the pan-European gauge tacked on 0.5% on Tuesday. The index is up 9.7% this year, after getting a boost ahead of markets-friendly Emmanuel Macron‘s victory in the French presidential election on Sunday.
“While markets are relieved at not having to fret any more about the prospect of a political and populist upheaval in Europe, there is some uncertainty as to whether we can go higher from here or whether we need a brief pullback first,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
“Either way, investors don’t appear to be too concerned about the risks of sharp selloffs, given the low levels seen in various index volatility indicators which are sitting at multiyear lows,” he said in a note.
The Euro Stoxx 50 Volatility Index /quotes/zigman/210599224/realtime XX:SX001996 -4.99% dropped to its lowest level since March on Monday and fell further Tuesday, then gained slightly Wednesday.
With Comey Fired, What Happens to Russia Probe?
President Trump dropped a political bombshell on Tuesday when he fired FBI Director James Comey. WSJ's Gerald F. Seib examines how Comey's exit affects the investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Photo: Getty
In the U.S., stocks were little changed Wednesday as European markets closed, bouncing back from earlier loss that some analysts had blamed in part on President Donald Trump’s surprise firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey. Market moves across the pond can help drive investor sentiment in Europe.
AXA SA /zigman2/quotes/202169431/delayed FR:CS -0.01% closed 0.2% lower as the French insurance company said it plans to take its large U.S. life-insurance operations public. AXA also said first-quarter revenue was nearly flat.
BPER Banca SpA /zigman2/quotes/200216094/delayed IT:BPE -1.38% fell 5.7% after Kepler Cheuvreux cut its price target on the Italian lender to 5.9 euros from 6.1 euros, but confirmed its buy recommendation, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
GEA Group AG /zigman2/quotes/202023693/delayed DE:G1A -1.00% dropped 5.1% as Citi lowered its per-share earnings view on the German food-processing technology company, citing intensifying margin pressures. The price target was slightly lowered to €42 from €42.50, “as better cash flow mitigates our EPS cuts”.
National indexes: The German DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.35% rose 0.1% to end at 12,757.467 for another record close. France’s CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -0.14% gained less than 0.1% to finish at 5,400.46. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.53% was up 0.6% at 7,385.24.
Economic data: French industrial production rose a more-than-expected 2% in March on a surge in output of manufactured goods.
Around 15% of eurozone workers are unemployed or underemployed, according to a European Central Bank estimate released Wednesday. That suggests wages and inflation in the 19-country bloc are unlikely to pick up for some time.
The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD -0.0504% fetched $1.0870, little changed from $1.0875 late Tuesday in New York.