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Europe: Fresh optimism on trade lifts shares

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[LONDON] Relief that the trading dispute between China and the United States was on course to de-escalate pushed European shares higher on Wednesday after a start in negative territory.

Fears over higher global barriers to trade had initially sent European stocks to 11-week lows but the Trump's administration decision to use an existing, but strengthened, security review for investments in technologies, rather than China specific restrictions, fuelled optimism.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.7 per cent higher as Wall Street opened higher, also boosted by the news.

"Firmly strapped into the trade war rollercoaster, the markets saw a chunky upswing on Wednesday afternoon as Trump appeared to pull back from the brink", said Connor Campbell, a financial analyst for Spreadex.

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Energy stocks added the most points to the index as crude prices climbed on supply disruption in Canada and after US officials told importers to stop buying Iranian crude from November.

BP, Total and Royal Dutch Shell rose 3.3 per cent, 2 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.

Industrials Airbus and Siemens which had been big drags on the index as investors priced in a more difficult trade environment for big exporters, rebounded with rises of 2.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent.

Autos stocks also made a come-back in the black, up 0.2 per cent and drove Germany's DAX up 0.9 per cent.

Imerys shares rose 4 per cent after analysts at Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the mineral extracting and processing company to "outperform" from "neutral".

Shares in French oil storage and distribution company Rubis fell 5.1 per cent after Berenberg cut the stock to "hold" from "buy, saying weakness in the oil storage business is likely to persist in the short- to medium-term.

Despite the change of mood on Wednesday, investors have overall been pulling billions out of European stocks and shifting into US stocks in recent weeks as trade tensions ratcheted up.

A global investor confidence index by State Street dropped in June, with the decline in sentiment largely driven by a significant fall in European investors' confidence.

"Right now the environment is more positive for US stocks but that could change fairly quickly," said Invesco's Hooper, adding: "One of the key themes this year is rotation of leadership."

Analysts have been upgrading their earnings expectations for European stocks in the past weeks despite building trade tensions.

REUTERS