European markets higher as insurance stocks lead gains; Hurricane Irma weakens

European stocks edged higher on Monday, supported by gains in Asian trade and U.S. futures, as investors continued to monitor the economic impact of Hurricane Irma.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was 0.93 percent higher during midday deals, with almost all sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Insurance stocks led the gains on Monday, up more than 2 percent, after the projected insured loss in the U.S. resulting from Hurricane Irma was cut to between $20 billion and $40 billion.

Among the top gainers in Europe's insurance index were Hannover Re, Swiss RE and Munich Re, all up over 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, Britain's Beazley soared to the top of the benchmark, more than 5 percent higher.

Retail stocks were also up more than 1 percent in midday deals. The sector was led higher by Swedish-based fashion retailer, H&M, after the group received a rating upgrade from Credit Suisse. The bank upgraded the firm by two notches to "outperform" from "under-perform". H&M shares rose 3.5 percent up.

Looking at individual stocks, Danish pharmaceuticals company, Lundbeck, tumbled to the bottom of the benchmark on Monday. The group's CEO Kare Schultz resigned from his position and opted to join Israeli drug company, Teva. Shares in Lundbeck sank over 12 percent on the news.

Sticking with the sector, Roche shares slipped over 1 percent following news of the failure of trials for its skin cancer treatment Zelboraf.

Meanwhile, pharma heavyweight Astrazeneca reported two of its drugs tackling lung cancer had delivered impressive clinical results on Saturday. Its shares rose 2 percent on Monday morning.

The only sector however which traded under pressure on Monday was autos, with Germany's Daimler dragging down the sector.

The automaker was off almost 2 percent, after it announced on Monday that it had set itself a new target of saving 4 billion euros by 2024-2025, stating that electric vehicles may be only able to offer half the margin contribution, in comparison to cars that have combustion engines; according to Reuters.

Hurricane Irma has weakened to a category 1 storm and is poised to become a tropical storm later on Monday, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. The storm is currently centered approximately 60 miles north of Tampa, Florida.

Hurricanes in the region have added jitters to markets worldwide as of late, as investors show signs of unease when it comes to the impact of natural disasters on certain markets, including insurance and energy.

Speaking of oil, prices pointed in different directionson Monday, as investors watched the path of Irma closely. At 12.40 p.m. London time, Brent traded down at $53.56 per barrel, while U.S. crude ticked higher, trading at $47.73.

Elsewhere in commodities, spot gold and silver prices fell into the red on Monday, as safe havens lost their attraction and the U.S. dollar bounced back. Investors showed signs of relief on Monday, after North Korea chose to not launch another missile over the weekend, however the country did warn that the U.S. would pay a "due price" for spearheading a U.N. resolution against the country's recent nuclear test, according to Reuters.

Consequently, the turbulence in commodities caused precious metals firms like Randgold Resources and Fresnillo to stumble in trade.

Source: CNBC.