INTERNATIONAL NEWS - European stock markets climbed solidly Wednesday after a mixed Asian showing, with traders tracking talks on a key US stimulus package that fuelled another record-high finish on Wall Street.
At the same time, long-running uncertainty about the global economic outlook caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a weak dollar helped gold to a fresh high at $2,041.92 an ounce after the haven investment on Tuesday hit above $2,000 for the first time.
"Stocks are back in rally mode..., maintaining the bullish outlook for August," noted Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group.
"That both equities and the supreme risk-off asset (gold) are moving higher just shows how conflicted investors are - they can't avoid being tempted by equities, but they can also read the unending stories of bankruptcies," he added.
Approaching midday, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 1.0 percent, helped also by strong rebounds for the UK services sector and sales of new cars after both plummeted during the country's lockdown.
In the eurozone, Frankfurt won 0.9 percent and Paris climbed 0.8 percent.
The euro was higher versus the dollar and pound, while oil prices jumped around 2.5 percent.
In the UK, it was revealed that the IHS Markit/CIPS Services purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 56.5 in July from 47.1 in June.
A reading above 50 indicates an expansion, and July's rebound indicated "the very early stages of recovery... from an exceptionally low base", said Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit
Focus elsewhere was firmly on the United States, where Republicans and Democrats remain far apart in talks on a fresh economic rescue package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned the Democrats will not budge from their $3 trillion plan, which includes an extension of a $600-a-week supplementary benefit. The Republicans' $1 trillion proposal sees that handout slashed to $200.
There are worries that failure to reach a deal will deliver a hefty blow to the already stuttering economy.
"The political wrangling has been going on for over one week, but dealers are still a little optimistic that an agreement will be reached," said David Madden at CMC Markets.
"It was reported that talks have been productive, so that has been keeping the bulls engaged."
But the ever-present spectre of China-US tensions was again in play after the two sides said they would hold talks on August 15 to review their trade deal signed to much fanfare in January.
With the relationship between the two growing increasingly tense - owing to issues including Hong Kong, the coronavirus and more recently TikTok - there are worries over the agreement, which brought an end to a protracted and painful trade war.
Observers point out that China has imported only a fraction of the energy products it said it would under the deal, owing to the impact of the pandemic on world trade.
"Rising trade tensions between the US and China could open up an unwelcome can of worms," said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.
"The market's primary thesis on what ultimately matters for growth assets is whether a US-China geopolitical escalation morphs into an economic dustup."
Key figures around 1130 GMT
London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 6,098.58 points
Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.9 percent at 12,709.67
Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 4,929.80
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 3,278.48
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,514.85 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.6 percent at 25,102.45 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,377.56 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1849 from $1.1798 at 2100 GMT
Dollar/yen: UP at 105.75 yen from 105.64 yen
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3112 from $1.3060
Euro/pound: UP at 90.38 pence from 90.33 pence
Gold: UP at $2,041.19 an ounce from $2,019.21
West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.7 percent at $42.83 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.5 percent at $45.52 per barrel
New York - Dow: UP 0.6 percent at 26,828.47 (close)