By Riva Gold

Stocks mostly inched higher Thursday, on track to snap their longest losing streak in years.

Futures pointed to a 0.3% opening gain for the S&P 500 after posting seven back-to-back declines, the most since 2011. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.7% midday following eight consecutive sessions of losses.

Tightening polls in the U.S. presidential election have weighed on sentiment all week, keeping major bourses narrowly in the red.

But shares got a boost Thursday after a U.K. court ruled that the Britishgovernment would need Parliament to vote on Brexit before it could officially start the separation process from the European Union.

The pound jumped 1.5% against the dollar to $1.2484, around its highest in a month. "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 said.

Sterling also saw a bump after the Bank of England left its interest rates unchanged as widely expected played down the chances of a further rate cut, while raising its inflation forecasts. London's FTSE 100 index, which tends to move inversely to the pound, fell 0.6%, while the yield on 10-year U.K. government bonds rose 0.05 percentage point.

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, but since then, economic data has improved.

A rebound in crude oil prices also helped support the risk appetite, as Brent crude oil rose 1% to $47.32 a barrel after settling at its lowest price since September.

Gains in Europe were led by the banking and insurance sectors, which were up nearly 2% after better-than-expected earnings reports. Shares of Paris-based lender Société Générale gained over 6% after results at its investment banking business offset a decline in retail banking, while ING Groep rose 4.3% after the Netherlands' largest bank by assets reported a 27% rise in third-quarter net profit.

Credit Suisse shares fell nearly 5%, however, after posting third-quarter results.

In the U.S., Facebook shares slid nearly 5% in premarket trading after the social media company warned of a slowdown in advertising growth.Whole Foods shares rose around 3.5% after the high-end grocer reported quarterly profit and said it was eliminating its dual-chief executive leadership structure.

Global stocks had been swinging in and out of positive territory all morning, following a lower close on Wall Street and a mixed session in Asia.

"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, while the yen and Swiss franc have both risen around 1.4% against the dollar this week as investors seek safety.

The broader WSJ Dollar Index inched down 0.1% on Thursday after falling for four sessions, while the dollar fell 0.3% against the yen to Yen103.1050.

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 yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose slightly to 1.829% from 1.799% Wednesday, while gold snapped a winning streak to fall 1.3%.

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%.

Kate Davidson

contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 03, 2016 09:06 ET (13:06 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.