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European stocks close slightly higher after UK budget; Adidas soars 9.4%

European stocks closed slightly higher on Wednesday as investors digested corporate earnings as well as fresh economic data from Germany and the U.K.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended 0.08 percent higher with banking stocks leading the gains on expectations of a probable interest rate hike in the U.S. next week.

Basic resources stocks closed down by 0.6 percent despite news of a firm outlook for the Chinese steel industry.

The German sportswear giant Adidas surged up by 9.4 percent, after reporting "stunning" earnings. It expects its 2017 gross margin to increase to 49.1 percent. The company ended the trading day at the top of the European benchmark with the security services company G4S close behind. The latter also jumped 8 percent after reporting an 18 percent increase in adjusted profit last year.

The British satellite company Inmarsat recorded its best trading day in fourth months on Wednesday after reporting a 9.5 percent increase in earnings. Its shares were up by 8.5 percent.

Just Eat was also among the best performers for its second consecutive day after Barclays analysts had lifted their rating to overweight after the U.K. online meal delivery portal reported full-year earnings in the previous session. Its shares were 3.8 percent higher.

By contrast, the French utility firm EDF sank by over 7.9 percent to hit the bottom of the index after the French government made 92 million euros in a share sale. The marine construction firm Boskalis reported a full-year loss for the first time in two decades on one-off charges. The stock was down by about 3.9 percent.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average the broader S&P 500 index continued to hover around the flatline. The U.S. private sector's hiring surged in February and appeared to boost the prospects of a Federal Reserve rate hike in March.

Rates, U.K. budget, German data

Investors have kept an eye rate decisions and on political events. The Polish central bank announced Wednesday it kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5 percent.

The British Finance Minister Philip Hammond delivered his spring budget – the last budget before the government begins Brexit negotiations with the EU.

The growth forecasts for the U.K. for 2019 and 2020 were revised to a lower level compared to the figures presented in November. However, the number for 2017 was revised from 1.4 percent in November to 2 percent on Wednesday.

In Germany, industrial production data showed an uptick in January. The output rose 2.8 percent in the first month of the year compared to December. The data brought some relief after disappointing manufacturing figures on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the conservative candidate in the French presidential election, Francois Fillon, has been involved in fresh allegations over an undeclared 50,000 euros ($52,700) loan.


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