By Peter Nurse
Investing.com – European stock markets edged cautiously higher Friday, with investors optimistic about future growth despite keeping a wary eye on the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
At 4:05 AM ET (0905 GMT), the in Germany traded 0.3% higher, the in France rose 0.3%, while the U.K.’s index outperformed, climbing 0.6%.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late Thursday that “big differences” remain between the two sides, and that “bridging them will be very challenging.”
A spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned it was “very likely” there would be no agreement unless the bloc changed its position “substantially”.
Talks are progressing behind the scenes, and such negative language could be expected as a negotiating tactic, but time is running out for the two sides to agree a deal to cover around $1 trillion in annual trade at risk of facing tariffs and quotas at the end of the year.
This potential disruption to the European economy as a whole comes as the region continues to suffer from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That said, Friday’s economic data have been reasonably positive. The widely-watched climbed to 92.1 in December from 90.7 the previous month. U.K. also rose in December, helped by the start of the country’s vaccination program, while dropped by 3.8% in November. This was the biggest decline since the first lockdown in April, but was still better than the 4.2% drop expected.
Additionally, an advisory panel in the U.S. recommended the approval of Moderna ‘s (NASDAQ:) Covid-19 drug late Thursday, clearing the way for a second vaccine to enter the fight against the pandemic.
In corporate news, British Airways-owner IAG (LON:) stock fell 0.9% after a report that it had agreed to buy Spanish carrier Air Europa for 500 million euros ($612.55 million).
Vivendi (PA:) stock rose 1.6% after the French conglomerate agreed to sell another stake of 10% in Universal Music Group to Tencent Holdings (OTC:), the latest in a string of eye-catching deals in music that has underlined the value of rights holders’ income streams.
Dutch health technology firm Philips (AS:) rose 2.3% after it agreed to buy U.S. cardiac diagnostics and monitoring firm BioTelemetry (NASDAQ:) in a deal worth $2.8 billion.
Oil prices slipped, retreating from the nine-month highs seen the previous session as traders waited for Congress to approve a new Covid-19 relief package.
futures traded 0.1% lower at $48.34 a barrel, while the international benchmark contract fell 0.2% to $51.39. Both benchmarks hit their highest levels since early March on Thursday.
Elsewhere, fell 0.3% to $1,885.50/oz, while traded 0.1% lower at 1.2260.
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