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European markets close higher after Fed hints at December rate hike; Capita tumbles 10%

  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up 0.24 percent, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.
  • Europe's banking index led the gainers on Thursday, up more than 1.6 percent amid reports of a potential merger between Commerzbank and BNP Paribas.
  • The Fed said it still expects one more interest rate hike before the end of the year, with investors projecting this would most likely happen in its final meeting of 2017, in mid-December.

European markets closed higher Thursday after the Federal Reserve announced a plan to begin unwinding its balance sheet and signaled one more interest rate hike for this year.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up 0.24 percent, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

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IBEX 35
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Europe's banking index led the gainers on Thursday, up 1.5 percent amid reports of a potential merger. The German government is said to be in favor of a merger between state-backed Commerzbank and France's BNP Paribas, German weekly WirtschaftsWoche reported Thursday - citing financial sources unable to be verified by CNBC. Commerzbank's shares were more than 3 percent higher while BNP Paribas was up 1 percent on the news.

Meantime, basic resources stocks were lower after an earthquake in Mexico rattled mining stocks. A 7.1 magnitude quake hit Mexico's capital on Tuesday, with the death toll surpassing 200. Shares in precious metal miner Fresnillo, which is headquartered in Mexico City, fell 2.2 percent on Thursday. In a statement, the company said its offices were unaffected by the quake.

Looking at individual stocks, ailing British outsourcing giant Capita reported underlying revenue in the first six months of the year had fallen 3 percent as it worked its way through difficult contracts. The company, hampered by a Brexit slowdown, said an overhaul of its operations, as well as its search for a new chief executive, remained on course. Its shares tumbled 11.5 percent.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks fell slightly on Thursday after the Dow Jones industrial average touched a record led by bank stocks.

Fed expected to hike rates in December

As widely expected, the U.S. central bank said it would begin trimming its massive holding of U.S. Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities in October. The Fed also suggested it still expects one more interest rate hike before the end of the year, with investors projecting this would most likely happen in its final meeting of 2017, in mid-December.

Asian shares were mixed on Thursday, after slim gains on Wall Street in the previous session. In Japan, the country's central bank left its policy settings unchanged and maintained its upbeat view of the economy. The Nikkei was up 0.32 percent after a fall in the yen against the U.S. dollar boosted exporters.

Back in Europe, euro area consumer confidence data is expected to be released at around 3 p.m. London time on Thursday.

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