LONDON (The Deal) -- European markets opened higher Wednesday following Wall Street and much of Asia overnight despite continued apprehension over events in Ukraine and disappointing monthly trade figures for Germany and the U.K.
The focus now is on the start of the new earnings season, and hopes that aluminum giant Alcoa's (AA) stronger-than-expected performance Tuesday will presage good things on this side of the Atlantic. There's still some hesitation though, ahead of the publication later Wednesday of the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monthly meeting.
The motor industry drove the German and French markets upward on Wednesday, with some major indices easing forward gently on Germany's accelerating auto sales, though Japan's Toyota (TM)slipped sharply on news it is recalling nearly 7 million vehicles worldwide for a series of faults.
Volkswagen's first-quarter sales for the group were up 5%. Its high-end marques Porsche and Audi were particularly profitable, especially in China, where Audi is especially popular.
Later in the morning, rival BMW topped VW's news with the release of record March and first-quarter sales figures for its upscale range. The March figure of 212,908 autos alone was up 11.3% on the same month last year and the first time ever that BMW's monthly sales have topped 200,000 vehicles. Meanwhile, over at Daimler, the third wheel of Germany's automotive tricycle, Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told shareholders his rollout of new models would help the company beat rivals' sales growth and increase profitability this year.