European stocks close mixed; HSBC, SocGen rally

European stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after a slew of earnings, with banking stocks rallying.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed roughly flat on Wednesday afternoon.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 and Spanish IBEX ended down around 0.1 percent. The French CAC 40 closed unofficially 0.3 percent lower.

On the gainers list, the German DAX closed roughly 0.2 percent higher and the FTSE MIB was up around 0.3 percent.

Wall Street's major indexes were trading higher when European markets closed.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
---
DAX
---
CAC
---

Banks in focus

Bank stocks were in focus on Wednesday after getting hammered on Tuesday.

HSBC, one of Britain's largest lenders, reported a year-on-year drop of almost 29 percent in first-half profit before tax. However, it also announced a $2.5 billion share buyback plan, which saw the stock close 4.5 percent higher.

Societe Generale beat expectations for the second quarter, helping shares close 3.2 percent higher. Chief Executive Frederic Oudea told CNBC he was comfortable with current capital levels, despite the French bank's somewhat weak performance in recent stress tests.

Meanwhile, Credit Agricole said its second-quarter net income was up nearly 26 percent, adding that it had completed an overhaul of the group's structure. The announcement was cheered by investors, but the stock later pared gains.

Shares of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) rallied after Il Sole 24 Ore reported that six more banks were set to join the consortium underwriting a 5 billion euro ($5.6 billion)-cash call by the troubled Italian lender. Its shares closed around 1.8 percent higher.

Unicredit, which was one of the worst performers in the stress tests, plunged after posting earnings on Wednesday. Its shares were suspended for part of trade and eventually closed down on the day by around 2.3 percent.

Rio Tinto warns on 'fragile' environment

Miner Rio Tinto reported a 47 percent year-on-year plunge in underlying earnings in the first half of the year, warning of a "global macro-economic environment that is still fragile". Shares closed down around 0.8 percent.

AXA, Europe's second-biggest insurer, reported a 4 percent rise in first-half net profit that fell short of analyst expectations. Shares in the French firm closed almost 2 percent lower.

Elsewhere, British retailer Next said full price sales in the second quarter were 0.3 percent higher year-on-year, but warned sales in 2016 could fall by 2.5 percent. Still, this was improved guidance from the clothing store, which helped its shares rally on Wednesday.

At the other end of the STOXX 600, Aggreko tanked by around 13 percent after the power equipment maker reported a sharp fall in first-half pre-tax profit.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.