European Stocks Climb as Markets Track Brexit, Fed


European stock markets jumped Tuesday, while the pound steadied after strong UK jobs data as traders braced for more Brexit chaos and awaited the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting.

British Prime Minister Theresa May held crisis talks with her ministers after the speaker of parliament threatened to derail her EU withdrawal plan just 10 days before Brexit day, leaving her strategy in tatters.

British economic fallout from Brexit clouds was however offset by official data showing that the UK unemployment rate has hit a 44-year low at 3.9 percent, while wages continue to outpace inflation.

"It appears that the labor market is still remarkably in rude health despite the ongoing calamity surrounding Brexit," noted David Cheetham, chief market analyst at the XTB trading group.

"In terms of market reaction there has been a little pop higher in the pound, but the markets remain far more concerned with the latest on the Brexit front."

- Germany powers ahead -

In the eurozone, Frankfurt's stock market powered ahead by more than one percent after a survey showed confidence among investors in Europe's largest economy Germany leaped in March, as fears of a hard Brexit briefly receded earlier this month and progress in U.S.-China trade talks soothed nerves.

The ZEW institute's monthly confidence index added 9.8 points for a reading of -3.6 -- still in negative territory, but picking up the pace of recovery from a deep trough the indicator plumbed in October and November.

It comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said she would struggle until the last possible moment to achieve an orderly Brexit, saying the interests of Germany, Britain and the EU were at stake.

Wall Street showed a solid rise at the start of trading, as focus turned to the U.S. central bank and its interest rate plans.

The Fed is widely expected to hold fire Wednesday on another hike, with observers predicting it will opt for just one increase this year as opposed to the two previously tipped, amid global growth weakness and U.S.-China trade tensions.

Oil prices meanwhile climbed Tuesday, a day after major oil producers led by Saudi Arabia agreed to keep working together to prop up the market, but said they would decide only in June on whether to extend production cuts.

- Key figures around 1440 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 7,348.16 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.3 percent at 11,812.14

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.6 percent at 5,442.98

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.0 percent at 3,420.93

New York - DOW: UP 0.5 percent at 26.036.50

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 21,566.85 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 29,466.28 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,090.98 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3261 from $1.3253 at 2040 GMT on Monday

Euro/pound: UP at 85.58 pence from 85.57 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1349 from $1.1337

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.45 yen from 111.41 yen 

Oil - Brent Crude: UP 27 cents at $67.81 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 15 cents at $59.53 per barrel

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