Europe Markets

European stocks close lower; UK looks for unity on Brexit divorce draft

Key Points
  • Oil prices reversed course on Wednesday as oil producers discussed reducing supplies.
  • Politics were also a focal point for investors on Wednesday after news of a key breakthrough between Britain and the European Union on a divorce deal.
  • U.S. stocks gave up early gains as Apple shares saw renewed selling.

European stocks moved lower Wednesday afternoon, checked by a reversal of momentum in the United States.

By the close of trade, the pan-European Stoxx 600 was provisionally lower by 0.54 percent with all major country indexes in negative territory.

As of 4.30 p.m. London time, Brent crude was seen trading 1.92 percent higher to $65.47 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 2.05 percent to $55.69.

On the earnings front, Danish shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk beat third-quarter operating profit forecasts on Wednesday, but said a trade war between the United States and China had hit demand for container shipping. Shares in the company finished Wednesday's session down by 0.27 percent.

Meanwhile, shares in the U.K. retailer Debenhams had their worst day ever, finishing 21 percent lower, as rival House of Fraser announced that it will close stores after failing to negotiate new lease terms with landlords. The owner of House of Fraser, Sports Direct holds a 30 percent stake in Debenhams.

The Italian government on Wednesday stuck to its contested 2019 deficit target of 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), defying the European Union's call for Rome to revise fiscal targets. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini warned the EU against issuing fines against Italy over its budgetary plans.

Brexit was another area of focus for investors Wednesday after news of a key breakthrough between Britain and the EU on a divorce deal. British Prime Minister Theresa May met with her cabinet on Wednesday to get her ministers on side. Sterling played it cautious, rising about three tenths of one percent by the end of the European equity session.

In corporate news, the European Commission sent a statement of objections to Siemens and Alstom over their proposed rail merger on Tuesday. The two firms confirmed the news to CNBC and said they would respond to the objections from EU's executive body.

Meanwhile, in data, key German gross domestic product (GDP) growth figures confirmed a slowdown in the country's economy during the third quarter. Germany's crucial auto sector is struggling under the weight of trade war threats. Dented by weaker export numbers, Europe's largest economy shrank by 0.2% between July and September

In the United States, stocks gave back most of their gains from earlier in the day on Wednesday as shares of Apple rolled over. A decline in bank shares also pressured the broader market.