2021-03-23 by W.M.
European stocks close mixed amid hopes for Brexit trade deal; UK banks jump
LONDON — European stocks closed mixed after a light trading session Thursday, as traders grew optimistic a Brexit trade deal would be reached.
Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up by around 0.1% after a choppy holiday-shortened session, while France’s CAC lost nearly 0.1% and Spain’s IBEX market finished the day up 0.5%. The German and Italian markets are closed for Christmas Eve.
British bank shares were some of the top performers as traders bet a U.K.-EU deal would be agreed soon, with Lloyds climbing 4%, Barclays rising 1.8% and Natwest up 1.2%.
Britain and the European Union are said to be on the cusp of striking a post-Brexit trade deal on Thursday. It comes after months of political wrangling over key sticking points such as fisheries.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said a post-Brexit trade deal was expected Thursday, after a “last-minute hitch” delayed an announcement.
Timings remain unclear, with Reuters at midday London time citing both EU and U.K. officials saying the deal could still be “hours away.” Press conferences slated for early Thursday were delayed asboth sides finalized the “small text” of an agreement on fishing rights, Coveney said.
Sterling climbed about 0.7% versus the dollar, trading at $1.3582. The euro hovered above the flatline at $1.2187.
In Asia, stocks were mostly higher as investors watched the latest Brexit developments. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%.
On Wall Street, stock futures rose ahead of the final trading day of the holiday-shortened week.
President Donald Trump vetoed a sweeping defense bill Wednesday, breaking the Republican-led Senate. The move came after he called Congress’ long-delayed $900 billion coronavirus relief package an unsuitable “disgrace.”