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European stocks closed in the red on Wednesday despite an uptick in oil prices, as concerns over the health of the global economy continued to weigh.
The pan-European STOXX 600 ended 0.5 percent lower, with almost all sectors closing in negative territory.
European sentiment was knocked slightly, after data from China showed that exports in May fell by a more-than-expected 4.1 percent from a year earlier, while imports slipped by 0.4 percent, much less than expected. As a result, markets in Asia finished mostly mixed, with China's mainland markets closing lower.
At the same time, the World Bank cut its 2016 global growth forecast on Wednesday to 2.4 percent from the 2.9 percent estimated in January. It cited "sluggish growth in advanced economies, stubbornly low commodity prices, weak global trade, and diminishing capital flows" as a reason for the revision.
This all comes after the Federal Reserve appeared to have taken a June interest rate hike off the table, following a recent poor jobs numbers out of the U.S. and lackluster first-quarter economic growth, which analysts said could point to a weak second-quarter.
Meanwhile, oil prices posted solid gains on Wednesday, buoyed by strong Chinese oil demand data and supply disruptions in Nigeria. Investors were also digesting new data from the EIA, which showed U.S. crude inventories had fallen by 3.2 million barrels in the previous week, more than analysts had expected, Reuters reported. The rise in oil helped push markets in the U.S. higher around Europe's close.
Brent and U.S. crude futures were trading sharply higher around Europe's close, hovering above or around $52 and $51 a barrel, respectively. Energy was one of the only sectors to close higher, with Tullow Oil, Subsea 7 and Shell posting strong gains by the close.
However, one sector that outpaced all others was basic resources, finishing 2 percent up, as a softening dollar and strong copper imports data from China, helped boost metal prices. Anglo American was one of Europe's top STOXX 600 performers, closing up 4.8 percent; followed closely by Glencore and Fresnillo, which both finished above 4 percent.
In individual stock news, Sainsbury's reported first-quarter like-for-like retail sales down 0.8 per cent. But shares jumped 1.6 percent as the numbers beat market expectations.
And RWE shares got a boost—closing up 2.8 percent—after the German utility and Russia's Gazprom, struck a deal on a long-term gas supply contract. Shares in E.ON also jumped 3.5 percent, on hopes that its restructuring plan which involves spinning off its conventional energy business, will get approval at its annual shareholders' meeting.
France's Rexel sat near the bottom of the STOXX 600, off 3.4 percent, after Citigroup cut its outlook on the stock.
Italy's Fiat Chrysler is in talks to strike a partnership around driverless cars with Uber, according to Bloomberg. Despite shares posting gains during trade, the stock closed in the red.
The European Central Bank (ECB) also formally started its corporate sector purchase program (CSPP) on Wednesday, a move announced by President Mario Draghi in March. Despite this, shares in several European banks closed sharply lower.
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