European stock markets were mixed on Thursday as investors responded to poor corporate earnings from German industrial titans and a surprise ruling from the U.K. high court that prevents the British government from beginning formal divorce talks with the EU without first securing a vote of support in parliament.
The High Court ruling in London sent a wave of relief through markets, as lawmakers who have been supportive of the EU gained a role for themselves in the Brexit process, leading investors and traders to price in a reduced likelihood of a messy divorce between London and Brussels.
The news reduces the risk of an economic hard landing for both the U.K. and the European Union, a potentially hawkish development from a monetary policy perspective.
Central bank policy itself was also back on the agenda after the Bank of England appeared to drop its September warning that another interest rate cut could be in the pipeline for the final quarter, with Mark Carney reverting to type and saying instead that the next interest rate move from the bank could be either up or down.
The FTSE 100, heavily populated with dollar earners and Europe's best-performing stock market for the year, dropped by 0.5% to 6,814.1 in response to the day's news.
The FTSE 250, which was hit hard by the vote in June, rose by more than 1% in the moments following the news. It closed some 0.68% higher at 17,581.9.
In Europe, the German DAX fell by 0.2% to 10,351.4 after a series of industrial titans delivered disappointing trading updates. In France, the CAC 40 fell 0.07% to 4,411.7 after being boosted by a buoyant banking sector during the session.
The Stoxx Europe 600, the broadest measure of European stocks, rose by 0.3% to 332.5 for the session.
London's fixed income markets reacted sharply to the High Court news, with the U.K. Gilt yield rising by more than 10 basis points to 1.12%, from early session lows. German Bund yields were up 5 basis points to 0.17% and the French Tresor yield was higher by a similar amount to 0.48%.
The pound surged against the dollar, by 1.5% at its peak, to $1.2493. The euro traded sideways against the greenback, changing hands around $1.1090 shortly before the close of stock markets.
In London it was gold stocks, all of them big gainers in the wake of the June referendum, that hit the deck the hardest. Randgold Resources (GOLD) fell by more than 6% in London trading -- the biggest loser on the FTSE 100 on Thursday.
The news from the high court provided some welcome relief to London's banking sector, which was battered in the wake of the June vote, with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) stock rising by more than 6% during the session to top the FTSE 100.
The sector also received a further boost from Bank of England governor Mark Carney in the early afternoon as expectations of a further rate cut in 2016 began to dissipate. Barclays (BCS) and Lloyds (LYG) stock closed up by almost 2% each.
In France, banking giant Societe Generale (SCGLY) beat expectations for earnings in the third quarter as the bond-trading boom boosted net income for the period. Net profits were some 30% ahead of the consensus for the period, sending the shares higher by nearly 6%. Peugeot (PEUGF) shares rose by 2.1% during the session, recovering all of Wednesday's losses.
In Germany, the DAX was weighed down by industrial titans whose third-quarter earnings failed to hit the spot with investors.
Adidas (ADDYY) , the sports clothing maker, met expectations for earnings, but the stock fell by nearly 6% as it announced exceptional charges related to a restructuring of its Reebok division.
Steel and industrial company ThyssenKrupp (TYEKF) saw its stock fall more than 1% after third-quarter results from United States Steel (X) showed the company swinging to a net loss for the period, prompting concerns over the outlook for European steel producers.