The Stoxx Europe 600 UP 0.5% at 335.40, with shares of Wirecard AG surging 6.2% after the payment-processing firm said it will propose at its annual meeting a dividend payment of 0.12 euros a share (17 cents), up from 0.11 euros last year. Industry-wise, oil shares followed oil futures higher, led by 1.1% rise in BP PLC and a 0.9% increase for Total SA.
Bank stocks also pulled higher, including a 1.5% rise in heavyweight HSBC PLC after two days of drop, and a 3.3% bounce for Standard Chartered PLC .
After the close of European trade today, investors will assess minutes from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting in March, looking for any clues about what may be the central bank’s next move.
Wednesday’s session saw shares of Volkswagen AG and Ryanair Holdings among the strongest advancers following ratings upgrades for the auto maker and the air carrier. Ryanair shares were lifted 3.4% after an upgrade to overweight from equal weight at Barclays, which said it expects the company “will positively surprise on pricing, load factor and ancillaries this summer; we also expect a bounce-back in fares next winter.”
Volkswagen AG rose 4% as Bernstein moved its rating up to outperform from market-perform. But BMW AG was downgraded by Bernstein to market-perform from outperform. “Having been BMW bulls for a number of years,” and “notoriously cautious” on Volkswagen, Bernstein said it’s time it changed recommendations in part as expectations for VW have moderated.
BMW’s stock isn’t expensive, said Bernstein. “However, much as we admire BMW, we believe in future years it may find growth harder to deliver as its products saturate every niche in the premium segment, as competition intensifies and as FX pressures build once hedges expire.”BMW on Wednesday reported it had its strongest-ever month in March, as sales in China surged and European car markets recover. BMW shares traded 0.1% lower.
But preferred shares of Porsche Automobil Holding climbed 4.3% after Bernstein raised its rating to outperform from market-perform, saying the upgrade was in line with its higher price target of 100 euros ($137.88) on Porsche, up from €75.
Shares of Renault SA and Daimler AG notched gains as well, rising 3.9% and 0.7%, respectively, while Fiat SpA leapt 2.2%.
Volkswagen was the best-performing stock on the German DAX 30 as it rose 0.2% to 9,504.65.
Data out today showed German exports fell 1.3% month-on-month in February, a reading weaker than expected. Imports were up 0.4%, on a seasonally adjusted basis, Germany’s statistics office said.
France’s CAC 40 rose 0.4% to 4,441.32. Investors will watch for developments related to a pledge by France’s new prime minister, Manuel Valls, to cut corporate and household taxes by more than €11 billion over the next three years.
Meanwhile, in the U.K., the trade deficit narrowed to £2.1 billion ($3.5 billion) in February as both exports and imports dropped, the Office for National Statistics reported.
The FTSE 100 picked up 0.8% to 6,638.71, with shares of Kingfisher PLC and IMI PLC higher after ratings upgrades for the home-improvement retailer and the engineering company.
Elsewhere in Europe, a long-term bond sale ushered Greece back into the international capital markets for the first time since its exile in 2010.It was a pariah in the bond market for the last few years.