European stocks traded higher Friday after much better-than-expected trade data from China boosted economic sentiment and comments from U.S. President Donald Trump suggest imminent tax reform in the world's biggest economy.
Britain's FTSE 100 led gainers in Europe with a 0.41% advance, as a stronger U.S. dollar and a surging import data from China boosted basic resource shares. The country's FTSE 250 index, a broader measure of equity performance that tracks domestically-focused stocks, hit a record high 18,689.80 before paring gains modestly by 09:15 GMT.
Reckitt Benckiser (RBGLY) was also in focus after it reached an agreement to buy Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) for an enterprise value of $17.9 billion, paying $90 a share for the Glenview, Illinois-based group that represents an 8.37% premium to Mead's Thursday closing price in New York, but is unchanged from the Feb. 2 price first floated by Reckitt, which was a 30% premium at the time it was announced.
In Paris, Renault shares traded firmly higher after the French carmaker posted better-than-expected full year earnings and boosted its dividend by nearly a third, rising 2.7% to change hands at €84.92. Kering shares rose 1.97% to €228.85 after Gucci and Yves St Laurent sales helped deliver its strongest annual growth in five years and lifted operating profit 14.5% to €1.89 billion.
The European gains followed a solid Asia session, which saw stocks rise to their highest in 18 months after record-setting rally on Wall Street Thursday, driven by comments from the President that his administration would unveil a "phenomenal" tax plan in the coming weeks.
The dollar rebounded against a basket of global currencies, rising around 0.35% to 100.75, with the gains helping to trim some of the weekly advance for the yen, which fell to 113.72 against the greenback and added rocket fuel to the Nikkei 225, which surged 2.49% to close at 19,378.93 points and erase all of the week's previous losses.
Stocks in Japan were also buoyed by better-than-expected trade data from China, where exports from the world's second-largest economy grew at a 7.9% clip last month against a 16.7% rise in imports. That put its monthly trade surplus at a 12-month high $51.35 billion. China also took in 8.01 million barrels of oil in the first month of the year, up 27.5% from the same period last year, in a further signal that authorities have engineered a steady and sustainable recovery.
China's Shanghai Composite traded 0.42% higher to close at 3,196.7 points while the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan index was marked 0.45% higher, holding at the highest levels since July 2015.
Political developments also underpinned markets in China and Japan, with the former boosted by news from the White House Thursday that Trump as endorsed the so-called "One China" policy -- which effectively concedes that Beijing has the right to rule over Taiwan -- in a phone call with China's President Xi Jinping.
Trump will also meet with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later Friday for a two-day series of meetings that are expected to focus on security and the economy but are likely to be dominated by trade and currencies.
Oil prices were modestly higher in early European trading, with WTI futures for March delivery rising around 1% to $53.52 per barrel while Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 1.2% to $56.29.
Early indications from U.S. futures prices point to an extension of Thursday's record-setting day on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 47.5 points at the opening bell, the S&P 500 rising 3 points and the Nasdaq gaining 13.5 points.