European markets close flat ahead of Fed decision; SocGen up 2.5%

  • The European Commission said Thursday that growth in the euro zone will stall in the coming years.
  • In terms of data, German exports fell unexpectedly in September, narrowing the country's trade surplus.
  • Investors are turning their attention to November's meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

European equities traded a touch higher on average Thursday as market players shifted their focus to a Federal Reserve meeting.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally up by 0.1 percent with varied sentiment across sectors.

Country markets differed too with small gains in the U.K.'s FTSE 100, Spain's IBEX, and Swiss SMI offset by losses in France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX.

Banking stocks outperformed most peers on the back of positive earnings. Societe Generale's shares were up by 2.1 percent after beating analysts' forecasts in the third quarter of the year. Commerzbank rose above 5.4 percent despite posting a 53 percent decline in net profit. The German bank still managed to beat expectations.

In Italy, Banco BPM was initially on track to see its best day in almost two years after announcing that it would evaluate bids due by mid-November to sell up to 8.6 billion euros in bad loans. Shares rose more than 6 percent but pared gains by the close.

Health Care was another sector to make gains by the mid-afternoon. Hikma, the pharma company, rose 5.6 percent after boosting its revenue outlook once again.

The media sector struggled, dragged down by German firm Prosiebensat dropped exactly14 percent after cutting its payout ratio.

UK satellite firm Inmarsat was another to shed value. The U.K. listed company saw an increase in third-quarter earnings overlooked as investors fretted over by a decline in takings from its major Maritime division.

Oil hungry China

Crude oil imports by China have hit 9.7 million barrels per day in October, a record high for the country. The figures, released by China's General Administration of Customs, represented a 6.2 percent increase from September's number.

According to S&P Global Platts, Chinese crude Imports for the first 10 months of 2018 have risen to 377 metric tons (9.1 million barrels per day), up 8.1 percent from the same time period in 2017.

Oil however has fallen in session following oversupply concerns. West Texas Intermediate crude oil has fallen more than 20 percent from its four-year high last month, putting the contract in bear market territory.

Federal Reserve meeting

The Fed is due to announce its latest monetary policy decision on Thursday. Market expectations suggest no change in policy, but investors will be looking for clues on whether there will be further tightening next month.

In terms of data, German exports fell unexpectedly in September, narrowing the country's trade surplus.

"A combination of slowing world trade and temporary factors like the new emissions norms for autos hit the German export sector over the summer months," Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING, said in a emailed note.

The European Commission said Thursday that growth in the euro zone will stall in the coming years.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the region is seen growing at a pace of 2.1 percent this year, after hitting a 10-year peak at the end of 2017. Furthermore, growth is expected to slow down to 1.9 percent and 1.7 percent in 2019 and 2020, respectively.