European stocks are firmly on the rise Wednesday while U.S. equity futures point to another chase for new records on Wall Street later today as investors cheer the advance or tax reform proposals in the Senate and shrug-off concerns over military tensions between North Korea and the broader Asia region.
The Stoxx Europe 600 benchmark, the broadest measure of regional share prices, was marked 0.78% higher at 390.05 points by mid-day in Frankfurt, led by significant gains for banking and financial sector shares in France and Germany. The DAX performance index traded 0.88% higher from Tuesday's close, led by gains for Deutsche Bank AG (DB) - Get Report and Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) .
U.K. stocks, however, were held down by gains for the pound, which spiked to a two-month high against the U.S. dollar following reports of a breakthrough on Brexit talks. Sterling was marked 0.8% higher at 1.3402 -- and pushed the FTSE 100 0.63% lower -- amid multiple media reports that officials in London and Brussels had agreed broad terms on the so-called Brexit divorce bill, a prerequisite to moving talks onto the crucial (and far more complex) issue of trade and the single market. EU national parliaments, however, will need to sign-off on any agreed deal, which doesn't include a resolution on the contentious issue of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
London Stock Exchange Group (LNSTY) shares were an earlier mover of note, falling 1.5%, their biggest drop since June 29, to change hands at 3,721 pence each and extend their three-month decline to around 5.7%.
The LSE said Wednesday that CEO Xavier Rolet would immediately leave the group and that chairman Donald Brydon would not stand for re-election at its next annual meeting, putting an end to a leadership controversy that rose all the way to the Bank of England.
The moves follow a contentious disagreement with one of the LSE's key shareholders, The Children's Investment Master Fund, which had demanded the Rolet stay on as head of the exchange operator and accused others within and outside of the company of forcing his departure. The Fund, which is headed by Sir Christopher Hohn, also asked for a vote to remove Brydon from his post. Current CFO David Warren will head the group on an interim basis, the LSE said.
Early indications from U.S. equity futures suggest another run at record highs for Wall Street Wednesday, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average marked 75 points higher, after markets were ignited yesterday by news that Republican tax reform proposals passed a key stage in Congress when it moved from the Senate Banking Committee to the broader floor as lawmakers voted 12-11 on partisan lines.
Asia markets, however, were initially unwilling to ride the optimistic tide, owing largely to concerns over regional safety after North Korea fired another missile into the Sea of Japan, in direct violation of international sanctions. The move rattled currency markets and kept investors in a cautious mood, particularly in China, where the benchmark CSI index continues to suffer from government moves to crackdown on risky lending outside the official banking sector.
That said, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index did manage to rise 0.19% into the close of trading while Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.5% to end the day at 11,597.20 points thanks to a solid session for banking and financial sector stocks.
Cheaper oil prices also underpinned the Asia session, with global crude sliding in overnight trade amid reports that Thursday's OPEC leaders' summit in Vienna may not yet have an agreed consensus to extend the current pact on production cuts -- which are currently taking 1.8 million barrels from the market each day -- from their March deadline into the end of next year.
Brent crude futures for January delivery, the global benchmark, were marked 0.65% lower at $63.44 while WTI contracts for the same month were seen 0.5% lower at $57.75 as traders reacted to private sector data showing domestic crude supplies grew by 1.8 million barrels to 457.3 million last week.
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