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European markets close higher; investors eye Fed decision, UK GDP up 0.3%

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up 0.52 percent with almost all sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
  • Britain's economy inched higher in the second quarter after almost stalling at the start of 2017, supported by the services sector and a thriving film industry, official figures showed Wednesday.
  • Fed rate decision due at 7 p.m. London time.

European markets closed higher on Wednesday as investors geared up for a rate decision from the U.S. Federal Reserve and continued to digest earnings reports.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session up 0.52 percent with all sectors, bar health-care, and all major bourses in positive territory.

Stocks in the oil and gas sector were among the top performers Wednesday, following earnings news. Subsea 7 shares edged higher after the London-based offshore contractor reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings. Meanwhile, Tullow Oil hit the top of the benchmark, up almost 8 percent, after posting higher revenues in the first half of the year. However, the multinational oil firm said an impairment charge and higher costs had resulted in a pretax loss.

Household goods were also higher. Moody's said Wednesday that cigarette consumption is increasing in certain regions and alternative products are unlikely to significantly hit margins. British American Tobacco was up by three-quarters of a percent.

Lonza, the Swiss pharma company, climbed near the top of the European benchmark, up 7.6 percent, after launching a new bio-manufacturing complex.

Construction and materials moved higher in afternoon trade. Germany's Kion Group climbed near to the top of the benchmark, up more than 7.3 percent, after reporting strong second quarter results.

Meanwhile, LafargeHolcim lowered its forecast for growth this year after second-quarter sales came in below forecasts. The stock fell 0.25 percent on Wednesday. The Chilean firm Antofagasta also said Wednesday that its output rose 7.1 percent in the first half of this year, but the copper producer has faced low prices and new labor laws.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. markets opened higher after Boeing and a host of other companies reported strong earnings.

Britain's economic growth inches higher in Q2

Daimler announced Tuesday that its net profit jumped 2 percent in the second quarter of this year to 2.51 billion euros. The stock was down 0.75 percent by the close of play. The earnings report followed news of a European probe into the sector on alleged collusion. Meanwhile, Peugeot said its profits rose 4.1 percent in the first half of this year. Shares jumped 3.1 percent in afternoon trade.

This U.S. dollar moved up ahead of the Federal Reserve's rate decision due at 7 p.m. London time. Market participants do not foresee any change in rates at this point.

Britain's economy edged higher in the second quarter after almost stalling at the start of 2017, supported by the services sector and a thriving film industry, official figures showed Wednesday. The U.K. economy grew 0.3 percent during the second quarter, up from 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year.

The U.K. data is likely to result in the Bank of England leaving interest rates unchanged at record low levels next week. Sterling slipped lower on the news but recovered by afternoon deals to trade at $1.3041 against the greenback.

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