Europe Markets

European stocks close slightly higher; BNP Paribas down 4.7%


European stocks closed higher as earnings and economic data continued to be the main focus for investors.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended 0.32 percent higher with most sectors in positive territory. Basic resources were the best performers on Tuesday after higher base and precious metals prices while oil and gas stocks closed more than 1.48 percent lower.

BNP Paribas posted lower-than-expected net profits in its fourth quarter after a 127 million euro ($135 million) writedown on its Polish branch. Its shares were down by 4.7 percent, with Pandora at the bottom of the European benchmark.

Auto stocks recovered slightly although ended 0.47 percent down after French authorities sent an emission case probe to prosecutors involving Fiat Chrysler. Shares of the carmaker were temporarily suspended shortly after the open and ended over 2.9 percent lower on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq both peaked at new highs on Tuesday with investors encouraged after better than expected trade deficit data in December.

BP missed analyst forecasts when reporting earnings of $400 million in the last quarter of 2016. It was down by 4 percent on Tuesday. In other oil-related news, The London-listed DCC is set to buy the retail petrol station network of ExxonMobil's unit in Norway. DCC was among the best-performing stocks this Tuesday, up by over 5.6 percent.

Munich Re announced that earnings dropped in the last quarter of 2016 due to higher costs from storms and earthquakes. Nonetheless, the firm said that it was able to pay a higher dividend. The German firm closed 0.4 percent lower on Tuesday.

Housebuilders were moving higher this Tuesday on earnings. Bellway said that it sold 6.5 percent more homes in the six months to January compared to the same period a year ago. The British firm is expecting to deliver a 5 percent growth in volumes in the full fiscal year of 2017. Its shares closed up by more than 2 percent. Barratt Development and Taylor Wimpey were also higher on Tuesday.

UK rate hike on the horizon

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem expressed his surprise with the International Monetary Fund's harsh comments concerning Greece. He indicated that the IMF report was outdated by recent economic strength in Athens and argued there were signs of some easing to Greece's debt but much more was needed.

Bank of England policy maker Kristin Forbes said on Tuesday the time for the U.K. central bank to lift interest rates was on the horizon. Forbes argued the economy had outperformed gloomy predictions since Britain voted to leave the European Union and said she would consider voting for a rate hike to prevent inflation from rising too high.

Meanwhile, the Halifax House Price Index showed Tuesday the first drop in British house prices since the Brexit vote. According to the mortgage lender, the drop of 0.9 percent in January is the latest sign of a slowing in the housing market.

Investors are showing some signs of concern with the uncertainty of the global political landscape. The demand for gold continues to rise with prices close to a three-month high on Monday and the Japanese yen is higher against the dollar and the euro.

Oil prices fell Tuesday as lower production by OPEC and other exporters was undermined by growing evidence of a revival in U.S. shale production and sluggish demand, Reuters reported.

Brent crude traded at around $54.85 a barrel on Tuesday shortly after the European close, down 1.56 percent, while U.S. crude was around $51.99 a barrel, down 1.92 percent.

In terms of data, the British Retail Consortium said Tuesday that U. K. consumers cut back on spending last month as inflation concerns started to mount. Germany's industrial output data fell in December by 3 percent - the highest drop in 8 years. This was mainly driven by a decrease in manufacturing output.

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