European stocks close higher as ECB holds rates; Brexit summit in focus; Indivior tanks 70%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up around 0.1%, with most sectors in positive territory.
  • The ECB left interest rates unchanged Wednesday, with President Mario Draghi saying euro zone risks are "tilted toward the downside."
  • European leaders are set to decide whether to offer Britain another delay to the Brexit process at an emergency summit in Brussels.

European stocks closed slightly higher Wednesday, after the European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged and investors looked ahead to an emergency Brexit summit.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up around 0.2%, with most sectors in positive territory.

Europe's retail stocks were the top performers, up over 1% amid earnings news. Supermarket group Tesco reported a stronger-than-anticipated rise in full-year operating profit on Wednesday, putting the company firmly on track to meet the majority of its turnaround goals. Shares of Britain's biggest retailer rose more than 3.5% on the news.

Elsewhere, G4S surged to the top of the European benchmark after Canadian firm Garda World Security said it was considering a possible offer for some or all of the British security company. Shares were almost 20% higher on the back of the news.

Meanwhile, shares of Indivior tanked over 70% Wednesday after the U.S. Justice Department accused the British drugmaker of illegally boosting prescriptions for the film version of its blockbuster opioid addiction treatment Suboxone.

ECB holds rates steady

On Wall Street, stocks rose slightly as investors awaited minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, as well as upcoming first-quarter corporate results.

Global economic growth has been a sore point for risk asset markets. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its forecast for world economic growth this year, saying a slowdown could force world leaders to coordinate stimulus measures.

The IMF also sharply downgraded growth in the euro zone economy, adding to building pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) to implement more stimulus measures.

The euro zone's central bank left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday. At a press conference following the decision, ECB President Mario Draghi said risks surrounding the euro area were "tilted toward the downside."

The ECB has been forced to backtrack its plans to tighten monetary policy in recent weeks, amid an intensifying climate of economic gloom.

Elsewhere, European Council President Donald Tusk has said the EU should consider offering the U.K. a "flexible" delay to Brexit of up to a year.

His comments come ahead of an emergency summit in Brussels, where leaders are set to decide whether to offer Britain another delay to the Brexit process.

The U.K. is currently due to leave the EU at 11:00 p.m. London time on Friday.