European Stocks Edge Higher; U.K. Outperforms On New Vaccine

European stock markets edged higher Wednesday, as the global economy's outlook brightens, with the U.K. outperforming on the back of its speedy vaccination program and an endorsement of its prospects from the International Monetary Fund.

At 3:45 AM ET (0845 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.2% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.3% and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 gained 0.9%.

Investor sentiment has been boosted globally by continued support from central banks and an improving growth outlook.

The International Monetary Fund raised its 2021 global growth forecast late Tuesday to 6%, up from 5.5% less than three months ago, citing unprecedented public spending, primarily by the United States. It revised up its forecast for U.K. growth by 0.8 percentage point to over 5%.

The outlook for continental Europe is less impressive. Germany, the largest country in the European Union, is only seen growing 3.6% this year, according to the IMF, with its economy having faced different waves of infections and subsequent lockdowns. Additionally, there are concerns about the latest initiative by Euroskeptic Germans to stop Germany putting its financial firepower behind the EU's 750 billion-euro recovery plan.

There was some good news regarding the virus, with the U.K. to begin rolling out the Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) vaccine later Wednesday, around two weeks earlier than expected. This will become the third approved vaccine to be offered in Britain, and comes at an opportune time, with the European Medicines Agency likely to confirm later in the day a link between AstraZeneca's (NASDAQ:AZN) vaccine and potentially dangerous blood clotting reactions.

In corporate news, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) stock rose 0.5% after the Finnish telecoms company settled a multi-year patent fight with China's Lenovo Group (OTC:LNVGY), the world's biggest PC maker. 

Royal Dutch Shell (LON:RDSa) stock rose 1%, helped by higher crude prices, even as the oil major said it expects a hit of up to $200 million from the cold snap that disrupted the energy complex in Texas and other U.S. states in February.

Electricite de France (PA:EDF) stock soared 6.6% after Reuters reported that the French government expects to spend around 10 billion euros ($11.87 billion) to buy out minority shareholders as part of a proposed restructuring of the power group.

Deliveroo (LON:ROO) stock rose 2.2% in its first day of unrestricted trading, a few days after its disappointing float.

On the data front, eurozone final composite purchasing manager’s index data for March is scheduled for release later in the session, and should show improvement.

Oil prices edged higher Wednesday, helped by the stronger IMF growth forecast as well as U.S. crude inventories falling last week.

Data from the industry body, the American Petroleum Institute, showed a reduction of 2.6 million barrels for the week ending April 2, more than expected and indicative of a pickup in demand in the United States, the world's biggest fuel consumer. 

Crude oil supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due later in the day.

U.S. crude futures traded 0.3% higher at $59.48 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.2% to $62.89. 

Elsewhere, gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,740.85/oz, while EUR/USD traded flat at 1.1875.

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