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European markets close mixed ahead of Federal Reserve meeting; Kingfisher up 5.5%

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 was little changed, with most sectors in negative territory and major bourses pointing in opposite directions.
  • On the data front, U.K. retail sales were much stronger-than-anticipated in August. The Office for National Statistics reported that retail sales surged 1 percent last month, beating analysts forecasts, suggesting consumers were still hitting the high street.
  • On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a harsh warning at the United Nations General Assembly to North Korea, saying he may be forced to "totally destroy" the isolated regime unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge.

European markets closed little changed Wednesday, as investors awaited monetary policy guidance from the Federal Reserve.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was marginally lower - although most sectors were in positive territory - and major bourses pointed in opposite directions.

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FTSE
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DAX
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CAC
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IBEX 35
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Europe's telecoms sector was up around 0.1 percent on Wednesday. Almost every stock in the index was moving higher with Deutsche Telekom among the biggest gainers after Kepler Cheuvreux raised its stock recommendation for the firm to "buy" from "hold". Shares of the German telecommunications giant were up around 1 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, Europe's largest home improvement retailer surged to the top of the benchmark after reporting stronger-than-anticipated earnings. Kingfisher posted a 1 percent rise in first-half profit in 2017 but warned it was cautious for the next six months of the year, pointing to the economic backdrop in both France and Britain. Its shares were more than 5 percent higher.

Germany's ThyssenKrupp and India's Tata Steel announced a preliminary deal to merge their European steel operations on Wednesday, a joint venture that is set to create the continent's second-largest steel group. Shares of ThyssenKrupp jumped more than 2 percent on the news.

On Wall Street, stocks opened mixed in the run up to the Federal Reserve's announcement of when it will begin the process of normalizing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

The central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged, but may indicate when it will next hike rates. The decision is expected at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

UK rate hike in November 'would be appropriate'

On the data front, U.K. retail sales were much stronger-than-anticipated in August. The Office for National Statistics reported that retail sales surged 1 percent last month, beating analysts forecasts, suggesting consumers were still hitting the high street.

The news sent the pound up 0.23 percent against the U.S. dollar, reaching $1.3539 at around 1:40 p.m. London time.

Kallum Pickering, senior U.K. economist at Berenberg, said Britain's retail sales data had emboldened the prospects of an interest rate hike from the Bank of England in November.

"Now that markets are largely ready for the hike, today's solid reading of domestic demand for August will give the Bank of England further assurance that a rate hike is appropriate," he said in a research note.

Trump threatens to 'totally destroy' North Korea

Elsewhere, Asian stocks were little changed on Wednesday as appetite for riskier assets cooled ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting later in the day. Most moves in Asia were within the 0.5 percent range of Tuesday's close.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a harsh warning at the United Nations General Assembly to North Korea, saying he may be forced to "totally destroy" the isolated regime unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge.

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