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Europe closes higher as traders eye Trump-Xi meeting; auto stocks fall; Rotork up 4.3%

Markets in Europe closed up higher on Tuesday as investors focused on an upcoming meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping.

The FTSE 100 finished the day up 0.54 percent, the German DAX was up 0.21 percent, and the French CAC finished the day higher by 0.3 percent.

Across the pond, however, U.S. stocks opened lower in anticipation of the premiers' meeting.

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FTSE
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IBEX 35
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The pan-European Stoxx 600 seen higher 0.2 percent by the close of play Tuesday. Basic Resources led the gains, up 1.45 percent, as gold mining company Centamin and metals and mining business Rio Tinto headed to the top of the market.

Industrials were also among those seen higher, up 0.32 percent. British-based manufacturing company Rotork was among the best performers on the European benchmark in afternoon trading, up by 4.3 percent.

Meanwhile, stocks in the auto sector led the falls, dropping 0.59 percent, after U.S. data showed a slowdown in car sales.

Shares in the telecommunications sector dropped 0.45 percent in afternoon trade with Telecom Italia falling 2.6 percent. This followed reports that its French rival Iliad wants to reach 25 percent of the Italian mobile market.

Banking stocks also dropped during afternoon trade, down by 0.5 percent, with the German lender Deutsche Bank leading the losses. Its shares were down by more than 0.67 percent as it reshuffled more executives while continuing to search for a new chief financial officer.

Retail stocks were also trading in negative territory. The market research company Kantar showed Tuesday that the big U.K. supermarkets are going through a troubling time with sales dropping as inflation jumps. Sainsbury's shares were 2.1 percent down on Tuesday. The online fashion retailer Asos fell 3.2 percent on Tuesday despite announcing higher profits. Investors were not happy with the company's declining margins.

Shares of Investec, Steinhoff and Old Mutual were also lower on Tuesday given their exposure to South Africa. Its currency, the rand, dropped as much as 1.9 percent in early European trading following a cut to the country's credit rating by S&P.

Imagination Technologies was trading 12.5 percent higher on Tuesday after dropping more than 60 percent on Monday following an announcement by Apple that it was ending its contract with the firm.

Political uncertainty dominates

Investors seem to be taking a cautious approach ahead of the U.S.-China summit later this week after Trump said the meeting would be a "difficult one in that we can no longer have massive trade deficits." This has boosted the search for safe havens.

In Europe, political uncertainty is also playing a role. On Tuesday, a U.K. parliamentary committee asked Prime Minister Theresa May to prove that a "no (Brexit) deal is better than a bad deal" by presenting an economic assessment of leaving the EU without a deal. The same committee wants the government to publish its contingency plans in case it doesn't strike a deal with the EU within the two-year deadline.

An EU lawmaker said Tuesday morning that all financial business in euros based in the U.K. should be transferred to the remaining 27 countries, Reuters reported.

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Bank of England worried about rapid credit growth

The Bank of England said Tuesday that the current growth in unsecured consumer lending could be a risk for banks if standards start falling.

Minutes from the last Financial Policy Committee meeting said: "Overall, the Committee judged that, relative to mortgage debt, consumer credit was less likely to pose a risk to broader macroeconomic stability through its effect on household spending. Instead, the recent rapid growth in consumer credit could principally represent a risk to lenders if accompanied by weaker lending standards," Reuters reported.

Also in the U.K. data revealed that construction growth has slowed down in March, raising some doubts over the overall economic performance in the country. Meanwhile, euro zone retail sales grew for the second straight month in February.

Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of Australia has decided to keep its rates unchanged at a record low of 1.50 percent, in line with expectations.

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