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Europe closes mixed as oil, gold slide; Yellen speech eyed

European stocks finished mixed on Wednesday, as investors focused on volatility in commodity markets and looked ahead to a speech by the Federal Reserve Chair this week.

Commodities pile on the pressure

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.3 percent provisionally with most sectors in positive territory. Looking at major bourses, the French CAC 40 and Germany's DAX both closed higher. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 lagged behind, down 0.5 percent due to a fall in the basic resources sector.

Crude futures continued to shake up markets with prices declining after the American Petroleum Institute reported on Tuesday that U.S. crude inventories rose last week. Brent and WTI crude last stood around $49.50 and $47.40 per barrel, respectively.

Miners were also weighing on markets. Glencore, agreed to sell a 30 percent stake in the Ernest Henry copper mine in Australia to Evolution Mining for 880 million Australian dollars ($670 million), as it continues its try and cut its debt. The Anglo-Swiss miner also reported a fall in first-half core profit, sending shares down over 4.5 percent.

This news along with a slightly stronger dollar pushed other commodity stocks lower, including Anglo American and Antofagasta. The gold price also sank on Wednesday afternoon with reports of heavy selling.

Yellen ahead

Markets have been lacking direction during this choppy trading week, as investors await cues from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who is set to deliver a speech at the annual gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in which hints on the timing of a U.S. interest rate rise could emerge.

WPP rallies on strong results

On the earnings front, WPP's first-half revenue rose 11.9 percent with the advertising giant raising its full-year target, sending shares to finish higher by 1.9 percent

Sweden's SCA closed 7 percent higher, after it announced that it plans on splitting into two listed companies during 2017.

One of Europe's best performing sectors was banks, with Italian lenders leading the gains including Unicredit, up 7.2 percent. On Tuesday, Poland's deputy prime minister said the country was not conducting any negotiations with Unicredit when it came to the possible purchase of its Polish unit, Pekao, but any possible deal would be done on market terms; Reuters reported.

Persimmon jumped 2.1 percent after a number of companies raised their price target for the stock. This lifted other U.K. housebuilders.

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