Stock futures were narrowly higher on Wednesday after the United Kingdom took the first step to formally remove itself from the European Union.
S&P 500 futures were up 0.04%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 0.01%, and Nasdaq futures added 0.13%.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty Wednesday morning by notifying European Council President Donald Tusk by way of letter. The notification kicks off two years of negotiating trade, immigration, and other economic deals between the U.K. and the EU.
"My conversations with EU officials in Brussels last week made clear there is now less appetite in the EU to punish Britain; the continent needs all the friends it can muster, in light of frosty (and, arguably, belligerent) signals from the Trump administration," said Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management and an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
He added, "Although investors are almost always best served by focusing on fundamentals and valuations, the political landscape in Europe could have significant economic impact on their shores and ours."
The U.K. voted in favor of "Brexit" last summer in a shock win that rocked markets at the time. However, global markets mostly have readjusted to the new reality just as they did following Donald Trump's surprise election win in November.
The Dow ended an eight-session losing streak on Tuesday with a triple-digit gain, clawing back from some of the heavy losses seen over the past week. The blue-chip index had suffered its longest losing streak since 2011 after closing Monday with its eighth day of losses in a row. The Dow hasn't had nine consecutive losses since the late 1970s. Stocks were under pressure for much of Monday as Wall Street contemplated the way forward for the Trump White House after its defeat on health care reform.
Crude oil prices were little changed on Wednesday ahead of official inventories data from the Energy Information Administration. Crude closed at its highest level in a week on Tuesday after production hurdles in Libya eased pressure on high global output. A militia in Libya shut down pipelines on Monday in protest of wages.
West Texas Intermediate crude was up 0.1% to $48.43 a barrel on Wednesday.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) surged 20% after releasing positive trial results from a treatment for cystic fibrosis. Two clinical trials involving tezacaftor, a second-generation "corrector" used in combination therapies to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis, showed successful efficacy and safety data that also improves the performance of its existing drugs.
Wells Fargo (WFC) agreed to pay $110 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over up to 2 million accounts its employees opened for customers without getting their permission, the bank said Tuesday. It's the first private settlement the bank has reached since it paid $185 million to federal and California authorities late last year. Authorities said bank employees, driven by high-pressure sales tactics, opened the bank and credit card accounts without customer authorization.
Semiconductor developer Exar (EXAR) rocketed more than 20% higher on Wednesday after agreeing to be bought by MaxLinear (MXL) for roughly $661.6 million in an all-cash deal. MaxLinear offered $13 a share for Exar, a 22% premium to its close on Tuesday. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.
China Energy has agreed to take a 19.9% stake in Cowen Group (COWN) as part of a strategic partnership. China Energy will pay roughly $100 million for the position as well as a $175 loan for debt financing. The $18-a-share deal values Cowen at a 29.5% premium to its close on Tuesday. Cowen jumped 17%.
Morgan Stanley (MS) was upgraded to buy from hold at Deutsche Bank. The stock is down 10%, but the analyst is optimistic about capital markets and an improvement in trading, Deutsche said.