Strong Earnings, Deals Propel European Stocks Higher in Early Trade

European equity benchmarks were higher on Tuesday morning amid a raft of earnings and merger news and as oil prices extended gains ahead of the release of key inventory forecasts.

In economic news, Britain's consumer price index expanded at a rate of 3.1% over the past 12 months, up from 3% in October and the highest level since March 2012. The rate also exceeds the Bank of England's target rate of 2%. Key upward contributions coming from air fares and computer games, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The result comes just days before the Bank of England releases its December monetary policy statement, at which it is not expected to raise interest rates. The bank last hiked rates in November -moving the benchmark interest rate from 0.25% - an all time low- to 0.50%.

Oil prices were extending gains ahead of the release of US stockpile projections due out later in the day from the American Petroleum Institute. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, the main US oil benchmark, was 0.6% higher at $58.37 per barrel at the time of writing while Brent crude, the international gauge, was up by 0.9% at $65.28 per barrel.

In equities, equipment rental group Ashtead Group was leading the gainers on London's FTSE 100 Index, 3.7% higher after projecting that its full year results will be ahead of is prior forecasts, unveiling plans for a share buy-back program of up to 1 billion pounds ($1.34 billion) and posting double-digit growth in its pre-tax profit in the first half of its fiscal year. Experian, a consumer credit reporting agency, was up by 2.3%, Centrica, an energy and services company was trading 2.2% higher and water management company Severn Trent was 1.3% higher.

On Frankfurt's DAX, commercial property company Unibail-Rodamco was trading 3.3% lower after saying that it had agreed to acquire Australian shopping center group Westfield for an enterprise value $24.7 billion. Gainers on the index were led by electricity distribution company RWE was 1.0% higher, technology company SAP was also 1.0% higher and both Fresenius, a kidney dialysis company, and athletic apparel retailer adidas were 0.9% higher at the time of writing. And, on Paris' CAC-40, oilfield services company TechnipFMC was 1.4% higher, Cap Gemini, a consulting firm, was up by 1.2% and energy company Total and Engie, an electric utility company, were 1.0% and 0.6% higher, respectively.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was 0.15% higher, London's FTSE 100 Index was up by 0.16%, Frankfurt's DAX was up by 0.12% and Paris' CAC-40 was 0.05% higher at the time of writing.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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