European Markets Close Higher With U.S. Stimulus, Brexit in Focus

Francois Lenoir | Reuters
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up by 0.6%.
  • In the U.S., a $908 billion coronavirus aid plan has reportedly garnered bipartisan support.
  • Back in Europe, U.K. and EU officials are hoping to secure a trade deal before Dec. 31.

LONDON — European markets closed higher on Friday as investors monitored prospects of a U.S. stimulus package and a last-minute Brexit trade deal.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 0.6%, with oil and gas stocks climbing 3.1% to lead gains after OPEC+ members agreed on Thursday to increase production by 500,000 barrels per day beginning in January. Retail stocks declined by 0.5%.

European stocks received a mixed handover from Asia-Pacific after the Pentagon added more Chinese firms to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies.

Sentiment took a hit Thursday after a Wall Street Journal report said that supply chain challenges had caused Pfizer to slash its coronavirus vaccine rollout estimates for 2020. Still, Pfizer and BioNtech are on track to roll out 1.3 billion vaccines in 2021 and the 50 million dose shortfall this year will be covered as production ramps up, the report said.

Meanwhile, Moderna said Thursday that it expects to supply up to 125 million doses of its experimental vaccine around the world in the first quarter of 2021.

On Wall Street, stocks rose slightly after a key November jobs report showed the U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, well below a Dow Jones consensus estimate of 440,000. The unemployment rate, however, matched expectations by falling to 6.7% from 6.9%.

Some traders said the weaker-than-expected numbers were positive as they could pressure U.S. lawmakers to make some headway with further fiscal stimulus. Reports have suggested a stimulus package is making progress, with a $908 billion coronavirus aid plan reportedly garnering bipartisan support late on Thursday.

Back in Europe, representatives from the U.K. and EU talked on Thursday in the hope of securing a trade deal before the Dec. 31 deadline. However, the Financial Times has reported that Britain is accusing France of making new demands at the last second, diminishing the chances of a deal being agreed by the end of the week.

Shares of Danish pharmaceutical company H. Lundbeck jumped 8.5% to lead the Stoxx 600 after UBS rated it as a top pick for 2021. At the bottom of the index, Swedish investment firm Latour plunged more than 12.6% after its majority owner announced the sale of 10 million shares in the company. staff contributed to this report.

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