Europe holds steady at the close amid US-China trade talks; autos tanks 2.75%

  • The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed around the flatline, off 0.03 percent, with the majority of sectors closing flat or on a positive note.
  • Autos were the worst performers after Trump said the U.S. would impose 25 percent tariffs on European cars.
  • U.S. equities navigated through choppy trade as traders monitored domestic political uncertainty.

European stocks finished Wednesday's session on a relatively muted note, as investors continued to monitor trade talks between the world's two largest economies.

The pan-European STOXX 600 provisionally closed around the flatline, off 0.03 percent, with the majority of sectors closing flat or on a positive note.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 popped 0.11 percent by the close, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.22 percent and Germany's DAX closed up just 0.01 percent. Most peripheral markets finished in the black.

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While the majority of European sectors finished higher, automakers posted sharp declines Wednesday after President Donald Trump said at a campaign rally that the U.S. would slap 25 percent tariffs on "every car that comes into the United States from the European Union." The sector tanked 2.75 percent.

In a Wall Street Journal interview published Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that a decision regarding autos charges would be delayed because of ongoing negotiations with Mexico, Canada and the European Commission. He declined to set a new timeline.

By the market close, all European carmakers ended in the red, with shares of Schaeffler, Michelin and Faurecia down 4 percent or more. Germany's Continental, however, saw shares slide 13.2 percent after it issued a profit warning, causing other auto supplier stocks to stumble.

On the opposite end, energy stocks posted solid gains on the back of a sharp rise in oil prices. Crude futures popped more than 2 percent after Europe's close following a data release that showed a larger-than-expected drop in U.S. crude inventories.

Looking at individual stocks, hearing aid maker GN Store Nord was Europe's bigger gainer on the STOXX 600 after raising its 2018 sales and profit outlook. The stock shot up by 7.5 percent.

Wood Group popped 6.5 percent, building upon yesterday's gains, after Barclays raised its price target on the stock.

Elsewhere, Norway's Marine Harvest came under pressure Wednesday, after the company — one of the world's largest salmon producers — cut its 2018 output forecast. Shares of the firm fell more than 1 percent by the close.

Trade war

On Wall Street, equities navigated through choppy trade as traders monitored domestic political uncertainty. Still, the U.S. bull market is set to be the biggest in history. Around Europe's close, markets were mixed.

Market focus is largely attuned to trade discussions between the U.S. and China this week, with investors hopeful they might be able to find a way to resolve an escalating global trade conflict. President Trump told Reuters Monday that he did not anticipate much progress from the trade negotiations.

On Tuesday, two of Trump's key allies, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, were surrounded in legal troubles. Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, while Manafort, the president's former campaign manager, was convicted on eight counts in a separate case.

Consequently, investors remained on edge as they awaited news surrounding trade talks between the States and China.

Meantime, members of the U.S. Federal Reserve will gather at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Thursday, where the annual economic symposium is due to take place. Fed Chair Jerome Powell will speak on Friday. Minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting will be released later today, after Europe's close.