European markets close higher ahead of Fed meeting; Shares of Atos, LVMH jump

  • The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 index moved a quarter percent higher from the previous session during Wednesday deals, with sectors and major bourses pointing in opposite directions.
  • Europe's personal and household goods sector led the gains on Wednesday morning, up more than 1.7 percent amid earnings news.
  • Market focus is also trained on global trade developments, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arriving in Washington to meet U.S. officials on Wednesday.

European markets moved higher Wednesday, as investors awaited Federal Reserve monetary policy guidance and the outcome of high level trade talks between the U.S. and China. The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 index closed provisionally 0.25 percent up during Wednesday deals.

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Europe's personal and household goods sector led the gains, up more than 1.7 percent amid earnings news by the mid-afternoon. France's LVMH was the top sectoral performer after the Paris-listed stock reported strong annual results in the final three months of 2018. Shares of the company jumped nearly 7 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, Switzerland's Lonza Group slumped toward the bottom of the European benchmark during morning deals. It comes after the drug ingredients maker announced CEO Richard Ridinger would retire in March. Shares of the firm were down 7.3 percent on the news.

Meanwhile, French IT services company Atos surged toward the top of the index, after announcing plans to give investors a special payout in the form of 23.4 percent of shares in its listed payments subsidiary Worldline SA. Shares of the Paris-listed stock rose more than 6.7 percent.

On the data front, economic sentiment in the euro zone fell for the seventh consecutive month in January, slipping to a two-year low. Official data published by the European Commission on Wednesday showed economic sentiment in the bloc slipped to 106.2 points in January, down from 107.4 in December.

Trade talks

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arriving in Washington to meet U.S. officials on Wednesday.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that he expected the world's two largest economies to make significant progress toward a comprehensive trade agreement this week.

However, many market participants remain skeptical about whether the economic giants can bridge differences over a number of issues, including intellectual property rights and technology transfers.

Investors are also looking to the outcome of the Federal Reserve's rate review later in the session, amid heightened expectations policymakers at the U.S. central bank will reinforce their dovish stance given signs of an economic slowdown.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, was little changed from the previous session on Wednesday.