By Riva Gold
Stocks mostly inched higher on Thursday, on track to snap their longest losing streak in years.
Futures pointed to a 0.2% opening gain for the S&P 500, after its most back-to-back declines since 2011.
The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.7% late morning after eight consecutive sessions of losses, after a U.K. court ruled the government couldn't unilaterally trigger Brexit.
Stocks got a boost Thursday after the High Court ruled that the British government would need parliament to vote on Brexit before it could officially start the separation process from the European Union.
The pound jumped 1.1% to a four-week high against the dollar at $1.2451. "The pound thinks it means either a 'softer' Brexit or it increases the probability that we don't actually leave the EU, but I think that's probably wishful thinking," said Alan Clarke, head of European fixed-income strategy at Scotiabank.
"I think it just delays things and throws a spanner in the works," he added.
London's FTSE 100 index, which tends to move inversely to the pound, inched down 0.2%.
A rebound in crude oil prices also helped support risk appetite, as Brent crude oil rose 1% to $47.32 a barrel after settling at its lowest price since September.
Global stocks had been swinging in and out of positive territory all morning, after a lower close on Wall Street and a mixed session in Asia. Tightening polls in the U.S. presidential election have weighed on sentiment this week, keeping major bourses narrowly in the red.
"What's going on with politics is at the forefront of investors' minds," said William Hamlyn, investment analyst at Manulife Asset Management. "Markets don't like uncertainty, and that's driving things at the moment, " he said.
The CBOE Volatility Index, which measures investors' expectations for stock swings, has moved higher for seven days.
In an event-packed week, investors have also continued to keep an eye on the course of monetary policy. The Bank of England is due to release an interest rate decision and quarterly inflation report later Thursday. The U.K. central bank cut its benchmark rate to a new low of 0.25% in August and signaled rates could go even lower if growth slowed as sharply as feared.
Since then, however, economic data has improved, and the majority of investors expect no change to interest rates at the conclusion of the November meeting.
"Relative to their expectations, things are better and the urgency to loosen policy has been reduced a lot," said Mr. Clarke.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve left rates unchanged as widely expected in an 8-2 vote on Wednesday but signaled it could act at its meeting in December.
Analysts said the Fed's message did little to shift expectations of a December rate rise. The broader WSJ Dollar Index inched down 0.1% on Thursday after falling for four sessions, while the dollar fell 0.2% against the yen to Yen103.2280.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose slightly to 1.812%, while gold snapped a winning streak to fall 1.2%.
Gains in Europe were led by the banking and insurance sectors, which were up over 2% after better-than-expected earnings reports. Shares of Paris-based lender Société Générale gained over 7% after results at its investment banking business offset a decline in retail banking. ING Groep rose 4.8% after the Netherlands' largest bank by assets reported a 27% rise in third-quarter net profits.
Credit Suisse shares fell over 5%, however, after posting third-quarter results, despite a beat on expected profits.
In the U.S., shares of Facebook slid nearly 6% in premarket trading after the social media company warned of a slowdown in advertising growth.
Whole Foods shares rose around 2.5% after the high-end grocer reported quarterly profits and said it was eliminating its dual-CEO leadership structure.
Earlier, Asian shares were mixed, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday. The Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.8%, while the Hang Seng fell 0.6% and Australian shares shed 0.1%.
contributed to this article.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 03, 2016 08:48 ET (12:48 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.