March 15, 2019 / 9:03 AM / 2 months ago

Optimism over trade, Brexit boost European shares; UBS, Swedbank fall

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LONDON, March 15 (Reuters) - European shares rose on Friday breaching a five-month high hit a day earlier as investors cheered positive signals over U.S.-China trade talks and after UK lawmakers voted to delay a potentially chaotic exit from the European Union.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.1 percent at 0826 GMT, piercing the Oct. 5 high set on Thursday and on track for its biggest weekly gain in a month.

All the major bourses were in positive territory, although London’s FTSE 100 outperformed the pack, lifted by its heavyweight oil and mining stocks on higher metals and crude prices. Trade-sensitive DAX was up 0.1 percent.

The mood was also boosted by growing expectations that Britain will not leave the European Union without a deal on March 29 following Thursday night’s parliamentary vote.

Technology stocks were the biggest gainers, up 0.6 percent, after better-than-expected results from U.S. chipmaker Broadcom overnight and boosted by hopes that Washington and Beijing will resolve their trade spat that has rattled financial markets.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke by telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with the two sides making further substantive progress on trade talks, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

The prospect of the trade talks taking longer than expected tempered some of the gains, and there was still no clarity on how close the two economic powers are on reaching an agreement.

Among individual moves, shares were driven by legal dramas.

UBS was down 1.3 percent after Switzerland’s top bank said it is bulking up its litigation provisions to deal with a French court slapped it with a hefty penalty last month.

Swedbank dropped 1.9 percent as the Danske Bank moneylaundering scandal deepens.

A Swedish TV programme reported that an internal report by Swedbank dated last September showed transactions totalling more than $10 billion between “suspicious” customers in Swedbank and Danske Bank had been done between 2007-2015 in the Baltics.

Wirecard sank almost 7 percent after Citi downgraded the German card payments company. The shares have plunged almost 40 percent since January. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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