European stocks edged Wednesday thanks to renewed deal activity and solid corporate earnings amid a global equity rally that appears unfazed by increasing concerns over the efficacy of President Donald Trump's struggling administration.
The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 index, the broadest measure of share prices, was marked 0.4% higher in the opening hour of trading, with tech shares leading the advance after better-than-expected earnings from chipmaker ASML Holding NV (ASML) - Get ASML Holding NV Report boosted the sector following last night's record close for the Nasdaq.
ASML rose the most in six months in early Wednesday trading after the semiconductor equipment maker said sales for the three months ending in June rose 8% to €2.1 billion ($2.4 billion) and that it expected 2017 revenue to grow by 25% over last year. Sales to memory customers, ASML said, is set to grow by 50% from last year, driven by DRAM demand, while logic sales are likely to rise by 15%.
Britain's FTSE 100 was little changed in the opening 90 minutes of trading, with gains held down by a modestly stronger pound, which held at multi-month highs of 1.3025 against the U.S. dollar despite yesterday's weaker-than-expected reading of U.K. inflation.
Food sector shares, however, were solid performers after U.S.-based McCormick & Co. (MKC) - Get McCormick & Company, Incorporated Report said it would pay $4.2 billion for the "non-core" food unit of Reckitt Benckiser plc (RBGLY) after its move into consumer health and infant nutrition following its $18 billion purchase of Mead Johnson.
Reckitt shares gained 1.4% on the session while Premier Foods Plc (PRRFY) , a former McCormick target, were marked 3% higher at 40.75 pence each. Consumer brands giant Unilever Plc (UL) - Get Unilever Plc Report , which rejected a massive $143 bid from Warren Buffet-controlled Kraft Heinz co. (KHC) - Get Kraft Heinz Company Report earlier this year, was seen 0.32% higher at 4,299 pence each.
Broader European stocks, however, particularly in Germany, were pressured by the surging euro, which is changing hands at 14-month high of 115.25 ahead of Thursday's rate-setting meeting from the European Central Bank in Frankfurt that could set the stage for an eventual exit from its quantitative easing program.
Both the pound and the euro, however, are trading at elevated levels thanks to a weaker dollar, which continues to hover at 10-month lows of 94.85 against a baskets of global currencies after yesterday's collapse of the Republican healthcare bill raised series questions about President Donald Trump's administration ability to move onto to successful tax reform.
The weaker dollar failed to support oil prices overnight, however, with West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August delivery falling 0.30% to $46.26 after yesterday's surprise 1.6 million barrel increase in crude stocks reported by the American Petroleum Institute for the week ending July 14.
That said, the U.S. political reality has pushed benchmark 10-year Treasury yields 12 basis points lower over the past week to trade at 2.27% overnight, a move which should continue to support stocks as investors bet financial conditions will remain loose over the near term.
Tech stocks, in particular, should continue to outperform after Tuesday's record close for the Nasdaq, which was helped by a 13.5% surge in Netflix shares after the video streaming service topped 100 million worldwide customers over a robust second quarter.
Early indications from U.S. equity futures point to another solid session for the tech-focused benchmark, with the Nasdaq priced to gain 0.28% at the opening bell against a more modest 0.05% advance for the S&P 500.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, however, is set to open little-changed from last night's 21,574.73 point close.
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