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European markets close mixed; oil and miners rise; Bovis up 5.3%

Bourses in Europe closed mixed on Wednesday with oil and mining stocks making gains, while auto stocks declined on weaker U.S. sales.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 was little changed at the close, barely making it into positive territory, up just 0.02 percent, with an equal number of sectors in the red and black. Auto stocks led the falls, down by 1.10 percent, extending Tuesday's losses after data showed a slowdown in car sales in the U.S.

The FTSE 100 in London rose 0.13 percent, the DAX in Frankfurt slid 0.53 percent and the CAC 40 in Paris slipped 0.18 percent.

Health-care stocks were also lower, down by 0.22 percent, as U.S. lawmakers made attempts to reconcile differences to replace Obamacare and drugmaker GSK announced it is recalling 600,000 asthma inhalers. The firm's shares were marginally lower.

At the other end of benchmarks, basic resources stocks outperformed their peers, rising 0.65 percent. Major miners were profiting from higher coal prices. Oil and gas stocks were also among the best performers, up by 0.53 percent, following indications of a gradual tightening in the market. Brent crude traded at $54.85 a barrel, 1.2 percent higher, and WTI was sold at $51.71, 1.3 percent higher.

Banking stocks also jumped on remarks made by Trump on financial regulation. He pledged Tuesday "to do a major haircut on Dodd-Frank" – a set of rules introduced in the wake of the financial crisis.

On Wall Street, stocks opened higher Wednesday after a solid employment data reading ahead of the release of Federal Reserve minutes.

UK housebuilders 

Looking at individual stocks, the Finnish energy company Fortum failed to convince investors with a commission for a 70-MW solar project. The firm was at the bottom of the benchmark, down by more than 10 percent. Its CEO told Reuters last month that he is keen to make a sizable acquisition in the European power sector this year.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of news in the U.K.'s housebuilding sector. Bovis Homes has rejected the takeover approach from Galliford Try. However, it hired Greg Fitzgerald as its new chief executive, who spent 30 years at Galliford. Bovis soared 5.3 percent.

Telford Homes said that it will announce record revenues and profits for the year ending in March, slightly ahead of market expectations. Its shares climbed 2.3 percent on the news.

Sterling moves higher on economic data

Jens Weidmann, governor of the German Bundesbank, told the newspaper Die Zeit, that the recent inflation data in the euro zone could bring an early end to the European Central Bank stimulus.

In terms of data, the euro zone saw another month of rising activity driven by higher employment, output and new orders. Data from IHS Markit showed eurozone PMI services jumping to 56.4 last month from 56 in February.

In the U.K., services PMI came in stronger than expected reaching 55.0 in March, after registering 53.3 in February. As a result, sterling climbed, recovering some of its value against the dollar.

US-China relations

Elsewhere, investors are looking at U.S.-China relations with both leaders scheduled to meet Thursday at Mar-a-Lago. Trade is set to feature in their discussions as well as relations with North Korea. On Wednesday, the North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test that landed in the Sea of Japan.

In Europe, candidates for the upcoming French presidential election had their second televised debate, in which the independent frontrunner Emmanuel Macron clashed with the far-right leader Marine Le Pen over the European Union.

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