European Stocks Called Firmly Higher; Sterling Weakens as Brexit Talks Begin –

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European stocks are set to open firmly higher Monday as investors draw optimism from some blockbuster merger deals last week and build gains in regional equities that could take markets back to multi-year highs.

Britain’s FTSE 100 benchmark is set for a 54 point gain at the opening bell, according to financial bookmakers IG, helped by a modestly weaker pound, which slipped to 1.2769 against the U.S. dollar as the U.K. prepares to begin Brexit negotiations with the European Union with a weakened government and a slowing economy.

Solid gains are also anticipated for Germany’s DAX performance index and the CAC-40 in Paris, where a further sentiment boost may come from Sunday’s impressive majority win in parliamentary elections for the En Marche party of newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron.

Friday’s massive takeover deal between Amazon Inc. (AMZN) and upscale food retailer Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM) , valued at just under $14 billion, had a mixed impact on U.S. markets, but could be a precursor to sector consolidation and further deal-making.

And while the three major U.S. benchmarks ended the Friday session with little change, stocks in Asia overnight traded firmly higher, with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan adding +0.5% and the Nikkei 225 in Japan on course for a similar percentage gain by the close.

Global oil prices continued on their downward trend in early Monday trading after another week of data indicating faster U.S. production and slowing international imports.

Houston-based oil services provider Baker Hughes said Friday that producers added 6 rigs in the Gulf region last week, taking the total to 933 and the 2017 additions to 275.

West Texas intermediate crude for July delivery was marked 15 cents per barrel lower at $44.59 while Brent crude contracts for August, the global benchmark, were seen 13 cents lower at $47.24 per barrel at 06:30 BST.

U.S. stocks are also set to kick-off the week on a positive note, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average poised for a 36-point gain, according to equity futures prices. The broader S&P 500 looks ready to add 5.5 points, or 0.23%, while the Nasdaq is priced for a stronger 23.7-point, or 0.47% advance.