By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Gains for insurers as Hurricane Irma hits Florida, but is downgraded
Stocks across Europe rose Monday, led by gains for insurance stocks as Hurricane Irma took a narrower path over Florida than expected, promising less damage.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index jumped 0.9% to 378.71, led by financial and industrials shares, but all sectors advanced. The index on Friday closed up 0.2% and logged a weekly loss of 0.2%.
Investors were also seen as taking heart from an easing of worries over North Korea's potential nuclear arsenal, after Pyongyang failed to conduct a missile test to mark its Foundation Day on Saturday, as some had suggested.
"Equity markets are staging a relief rally after a less painful weekend than feared" said Rebecca O'Keefe, head of investment at Interactive Investor.
"Despite the fact that North Korea is now warning of 'pain and suffering' if the U.N. council votes for new sanctions today, investors have largely decided that the risks are more rhetoric than reality," she said in an note.
Insurers rise: The Stoxx Europe 600 Insurance Index charged up 2.1%, moving toward its best gain since mid-July, as shares of reinsurer Munich Reinsurance Co. (>> Muenchener Rueckversicherung) climbed 4.3% and Swiss Re AG (SSREY) tacked on 4.5%.
"Although [Hurricane] Irma is still causing some problems, the impact is far less than the worst-case scenario predictions, with insurance companies topping the performance tables today as the direct financial cost of Irma is likely to be far less than feared," said O'Keefe.
Hurricane Irma on Sunday tore through the southwest and west coast of Florida , but didn't make a direct hit on Miami and other cities on the east coast of the state. The hurricane, which is now starting to approach Tampa, has since weakened to a Category 1 storm. Still, millions of Floridians are without electric power, and there has been property damage caused by heavy winds and flooding.
Insurance stocks topped the advancers on the Stoxx 600, with Beazley PLC (>> Beazley PLC) up 5.6%, Hiscox Ltd. (>> Hiscox Ltd) rising 2.9% and French reinsurer Scor SE (SCRYY) higher by 3.1%.
The euro bought $1.2020, down from $1.2037 late Friday in New York. The U.S. dollar moved up slightly on the prospect that Irma's impact on the U.S. economy may not be as severe as projected.
National indexes: France's CAC 40 index popped up 1.2% to 5,172.85, and Germany's DAX 30 index tacked on 1% to 12,432.34.
In London, the FTSE 100 bulked up 0.6% to 7,423.74, while Spain's IBEX rose 1.4% to 10,272.
Brexit bill in focus: Investors will keep watch on developments from the U.K. parliament on Monday, where lawmakers are debating elements of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. They are expected to vote on the bill, which overturns the legislation that took the U.K. into the European Union, either late Monday or early Tuesday.
Included in the Brexit bill are measures to convert existing EU laws into U.K. law, which some say hand the government "Henry VIII" powers to amend laws without parliamentary scrutiny.