Europe stocks higher on US-China trade optimism; UK set for another Brexit vote

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.7 percent at the start of the last trading session of the month, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.7 percent at the start of the last trading session of the month, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Basic resources sector jumped to the top of the index, up 1.5 percent, while telecoms was the weakest, dragged down by Deutsche Telecom after shares of German-telecom operator fell 5 percent on the back of a stock downgrade from Credit Suisse. 

Market players turned their focus to trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing, after fears of a potential U.S. recession put global equities under pressure earlier in the week. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged Thursday to further open up market access to foreign lenders and insurance firms. And on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a tweet on Friday that he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had concluded “constructive” trade talks in Beijing.

Elsewhere, Brexit remains a source of worry, as a parliamentary deadlock over U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal rumbled on. May is set to put a watered-down version of her divorce deal to a vote yet again on Friday — it’s already been rejected twice by British lawmakers.

On the corporate front, H&M shares soared 14 percent after it reported a smaller than expected drop in first-quarter pretax profit.

Meanwhile, Swedbank and Nordea both saw heavy selling on Friday with reports that New York’s financial regulator has sent letters to both asking for detailed information about their dealings with Danske Bank. It’s another step in a long drawn out money-laundering scandal in the region.

In terms of data, German retail sales rose more more-than-expected in February, according to new figures.

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