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Europe closes near 3-month highs on Fed, ECB; Sodexo up 10%

European equities finished in positive territory on Thursday as investors digested a slew of announcements from global central banks.

Dovish central banks?

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The pan-European STOXX 600 pared sharp gains by the close, ending up 0.5 percent provisionally, after sluggish trade in U.S. stocks dragged Europe down. However, the FTSEurofirst 300 index had risen to levels not seen since August earlier in the session, according to Reuters data.

Markets were initially buoyed on Thursday after the release of the Federal Reserve's October meeting minutes on Wednesday evening. The minutes showed that many members of the Federal Open Market Committee believe a rate hike next month would be appropriate but would then proceed with caution on further tightening.

Meanwhile, China's central bank cut its overnight standing lending facility on Thursday morning, providing further stimulus to its economy. And the European Central Bank (ECB) considered adding more stimulus to its struggling economy, according to the minutes of its last policy meeting, and saw "potentially worrisome" downward revisions in consumer price growth.

Paris attacks

Investors in Europe are also digesting the latest developments in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. Police raids on more suspected perpetrators of Friday's attacks took place on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, a series of coordinated dawn raids in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis saw the police make eight arrests. At least two suspects died during the attack. The target of the raid was presumed to be Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the so-called mastermind of Friday's attacks in Paris in which 129 people died but he was not among those arrested, the Paris prosecutor said, according to Reuters.

With France launching a fresh round of air strikes this week on Syria, defense and military stocks continued to be in focus. Consequently, QinetiQ shares jumped over 10 percent by the close, despite posting half year results which were broadly flat in revenue on Thursday.

Sodexo shares soar; earnings in focus

On the earnings front, French catering company Sodexo reported a rise in net profits and revenues for the fiscal year ending August 31, sending shares to finish up near 10 percent.

Britain's Royal Mail posted first-half revenues that were flat compared with the same time last year, but raised its dividend slightly. This was enough to push shares to close sharply higher, up 5 percent.

Germany's Thyssenkrupp finished trade around 2.6 percent higher after the industrial group gave a cautious outlook on the year ahead as it expects another decline in steel demand in China.

Oil in focus

Concerns over a global supply glut continued to weigh on oil prices Thursday, with U.S. crude trading down 37 cents at $40.40 a barrel, while Brent crude was up slightly at $44.28 around Europe's close. This weighed on many oil stocks, with Seadrill off 3 percent, and Subsea 7 and Statoil closing over 1.5 percent lower.

Housebuilders slump on Fed noise

Increased expectations of a December interest rate hike from the Fed sent many of the U.K. housebuilders lower. Bovis Homes tanked 8.6 percent despite a positive trading update being released today. Persimmon and Berkeley Group both closed over 1 percent lower.

"The implication is that now we are in a rising interest rate environment, even though it doesn't accelerate what the Bank of England will do, it does signal in a clearer way that we are in a normalization environment which will put pressure on the house builders," Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, told CNBC by phone.