European stock markets opening higher, helped by small signs of progress in Brexit talks

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 European stock markets are seen opening higher Wednesday, helped by small signs of progress in Brexit talks and continued confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout ahead of this week’s ECB policy meeting.

At 2:10 AM ET (0710 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.2% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.5% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.4%.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive European Commission, in Brussels later Wednesday to try and solve the issues their negotiators have struggled with for months.

The differences over fishing rights, fair competition and ways to solve future disputes may still exist, but the decision of the U.K. government to drop controversial clauses in the U.K. Internal Market Bill, which would clash with the Brexit divorce agreement, may help with the discussions.

Adding to the positive tone is renewed confidence with Covid-19 vaccines.

The U.K. started vaccinating its public with the Pfizer/BioNTech injection on Tuesday, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released documents flagging no new safety or efficacy concerns, implying this vaccine will be approved for use in America when the administration meets on Thursday.

Additionally, the rival Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is safe and effective, researchers confirmed in The Lancet journal on Tuesday. There had been doubts expressed about this drug when its interim trial results were made public a couple of weeks ago as three efficacy levels were reported.

More monetary support looks likely this week, with the European Central Bank holding its latest policy-setting meeting on Thursday. The central bank is widely expected to increase and extend its pandemic bond-buying program.

“We expect the ECB to expand the PEPP and announce new TLTROs with easier terms at its meeting next week. Such steps should help keeping bond yields low and financing conditions easy also amidst an economic recovery,” said Nordea analyst Jan von Gerich, in a research note.

Oil prices edged higher Wednesday, helped by vaccine optimism and despite an increase in U.S. oil inventories raising concerns about demand from this important consumer.

The American Petroleum Institute stated late Tuesday that U.S. crude oil supplies rose by 1.14 million barrels for the week ending Dec. 4, rathe than the 1.51-million-barrel draw expected. This puts the focus now on the supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, due later Wednesday.

U.S. crude futures traded 0.2% higher at $45.69 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract rose 0.1% to $48.89. Both benchmarks remain well above the $40 level, having posted five consecutive weeks.

Elsewhere, gold futures fell 0.7% to $1,862.15/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.3% higher at 1.2135.