Europe ends higher ahead of crucial Fed decision

European markets held onto gains to close higher on Wednesday ahead of a widely-expected interest rate rise by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Fed hike expected


The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally ended 0.2 percent higher, as investors paused for breath before the Federal Open Market Committee is due to release its post-meeting statement at 2 p.m. ET.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to follow with a press conference at 2:30 p.m.

Weak oil prices helped cap gains Wednesday after two days of recovering from near-seven-year-lows. WTI was off more than 4 percent below $36 a barrel and Brent off more than 3 percent to just above $37 a barrel. Weekly EIA crude inventories showed a rise of 4.8 million barrels.

U.S. stocks traded mixed Wednesday, attempting to shake off pressure from low oil prices, ahead of the widely expected rate hike. It would be the first time that the Fed has increased rates since 2006 but the bank is expected to be very cautious, hiking by 25 basis points this month and only gradually and intermittently thereafter.

Read More Interest rate hike coming? What you need to know

Altice, Casino shares jump; Zodiac slips

French retailer Casino ended over 6 percent higher after announcing plans to reduce its debt. JPMorgan also raised its price target for the stock.

Amsterdam-listed Altice shot up 13 percent after Deutsche Bank raised its outlook for the stock from "hold" to "buy".

British publishing and education company Pearson closed up around 5 percent after Exane BNP Paribas raised its outlook on the stock.

Aerospace equipment provider, Zodiac Aerospace, sat near the bottom of the STOXX 600, down over 3.5 percent, after JPMorgan cut its price target for the stock. The company reported an 8.8 percent rise in the first quarter of its 2015/2016 fiscal year but said it was behind schedule in supplying toilets for the Airbus A350.

Apple supplier Dialog Semiconductor fell around 5 percent down after it slashed its fourth quarter revenue guidance and received a round of price target cuts from brokers.

Miners in focus

Miners were also in focus with Anglo American ending over 2 percent higher despite a price cut to its stock from both Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale. Glencore also finished 2.4 percent up despite Deutsche Bank price cut. BHP Billiton was up over 2 percent on reports that the miner is considering further cuts to capital spending.

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