European stocks closed higher on Wednesday after the Bank of Japan announced new policy measures, but pared some gains later in the session as investors awaited the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up around 0.5 percent, with basic resources and energy stocks gaining in afternoon trade after a boost to oil prices.
WTI crude futures for November topped $45 per barrel on Wednesday, well above the 50-day level of $44.80. The spike came as the U.S. reported a surprisingly large drop in crude inventories and helped push shares of Amec Foster and SBM Offshore close more than 2 percent higher.
The Fed will announce its latest policy decision on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, with Fed Chair Janet Yellen briefing the media at 2:30 p.m. ET. Market consensus is for the central bank to hold its base rate in the 0.25-0.50 percent range and not lift again until December. CME Group's FedWatch Tool puts the probability of no change at 85 percent, with a 15 percent chance of a hike to 0.50-0.75 percent.
A surprise cannot be ruled out though, according to the head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets.
"It is far from the case that all recent data have been soft, with an upside surprise seen to last Friday's CPI figure and (forecasts) of third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth still around 3 percent," Chris Scicluna said on Wednesday in a note.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Bank of Japan announced it would change policy, abandoning its monetary base target in favor of targeting the yield curve for Japanese bonds. It held the deposit rate unchanged at -0.1 percent and said it would maintain its program of bond purchases.
The Japanese Nikkei 225 closed around 1.9 percent higher subsequently, having traded 0.3 percent up on the day before the decision was announced. Japanese banking shares rose to close sharply higher, boosted by the news of no further rate cuts.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said the move would help Japanese banks but might not have the desired effect on the Japanese economy.
"Japanese policymakers ... appear to have focused their attention on targeting the shape of the yield curve in order to take the pressure off banks, as a flatter yield curve took its toll on bank profitability. Ultimately, while these actions may well help the banks, it's doubtful they will to help the Japanese economy that much and in some ways it shows how little flexibility the central bank has, given how experimental policy is now becoming," Hewson said in a note on Wednesday.
Analysts at Accendo Markets said the Bank of Japan's move could deter the Fed from an immediate rate rise.
"Market sentiment is being helped by the prospect of accommodative policy for longer, even if the BOJ is struggling to deliver. Hopes are also high that the latter's action leaves the Fed in a bind, forcing it to hold off from hiking at all this year," the analysts said in a note on Wednesday.
The rally in Japanese banks spilled over into Europe, with individual company news also helping indexes.
European financials and insurance stocks were among outperformers on Wednesday, with Italian and Spanish banks notably strong performers. The top stock on the STOXX 600 was Spain's Banco Popular, which close over 9 percent higher.
Shares of Unicredit closed up 3.6 percent after Reuters reported that three bidders were in the lead to buy the Italian bank's fund management arm.
In the U.K., Barclays shares ended up 3.1 percent after HSBC raised its price target for the stock.