By Barbara Kollmeyer
European stocks climbed on Wednesday, following a record session on Wall Street amid optimism over progress on a new American stimulus package, and as the U.K. rolled out its COVID-19 vaccine program.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.45% rose 0.6% to 396.11, after gaining 0.2% on Tuesday. The German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.61% rose 0.9%, the French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -0.32% gained 0.2%, and the FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.65% added 0.4%.
The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.0144% rose 0.5% to $1.3418. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to arrive in Brussels later on Wednesday, to dine with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an eleventh-hour bid to secure a post-Brexit trade deal. Fears of a ‘no-deal’ scenario when the transition period ends on Dec. 31 weighed on stocks on Tuesday.
But there were encouraging comments from Irish deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar, who said he believes both sides have more to gain than lose from a deal , while Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Sky News there is now a “smoother glide path” toward a possible deal.
The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.54% marked a fresh closing record on Tuesday as investors cheered the start of the U.K.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout with the shot from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.05% /zigman2/quotes/203243414/delayed UK:0Q1N +0.35% and its German partner BioNTech’s /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +5.04% . Meanwhile, drugmaker AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -0.69% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -0.11% said full trial data show the COVID-19 shot it has developed with the University of Oxford is “safe and effective.” U.S. stocks opened mostly firmer, but by modest amounts.
London could be facing the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions , with some experts calling for just that, as infection numbers have climbed across much of the city . On Wednesday, Germany’s daily infection rate reportedly hit the highest level since the pandemic began.
The U.S. continues to battle its own second wave of the pandemic, but investors are partially pinning hopes on a Thursday regulatory meeting , which could mark a step toward the likely authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.
“Alongside a rollout which has now begun in the U.K., expectations are increasing for a relatively early solution to the human and economic problems which the pandemic has caused,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, in a note to clients.
And hopes are rising for a U.S. stimulus package before the end of the year, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said late on Tuesday that he offered a $916 billion aid package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would deliver $600 direct payments to most Americans.
Shares of Howden Joinery /zigman2/quotes/201332803/delayed UK:HWDN +0.31% rose 7%, near the top of the Stoxx 600 gainers as the kitchen appliance firm said trading in November continued to be strong.
Shares of Covestro /zigman2/quotes/206170750/delayed XE:1COV -0.44% climbed 3%, after the German chemicals group said late on Tuesday that the company has raised its 2020 earnings forecast as activities in the fourth quarter of the current year are stronger than previously expected.
Shares of STMicroelectronics /zigman2/quotes/207734906/composite STM -1.05% /zigman2/quotes/203551318/delayed IT:STM -1.47% led Stoxx Europe decliners, dropping 10% after the company lowered most of its midterm targets and pushed them back a year to 2023. The chip maker cited a weaker U.S. dollar against the euro and rising U.S.-China trade tension as factors.
Shares of Signify /zigman2/quotes/202230222/delayed NL:LIGHT +1.37% slid 6%, after the Dutch-based lighting company said it would announce a new strategy to boost profits later on Wednesday, and updated guidance.