European markets close marginally higher amid earnings

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up around 1% during afternoon trade, as autos and banks rallied.
  • Market focus is attuned to corporate earnings, with a string of U.S. companies releasing their first-quarter reports this week.

After slipping value over the morning European stocks climbed higher on average Wednesday afternoon, as autos and banks rallied.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished provisionally higher by 0.08% with all of the continent's major individual bourses in positive territory.

Autos and banks both rallied as economic data out of China boosted optimism and assuaged fears that the global economy is slowing down. Oil prices initially received a boost, with Brent at one stage climbing above the $72 a barrel line for the first time since November. By the closing bell Brent had given up its gains and was sitting at around $71.60.

Europe's basic resources stocks were among the worst performers during deals however, down around 0.8%. That coming after Brazilian iron ore miner Vale said late Tuesday that it expected to resume operations at the Brucutu mine within 72 hours. Shares of rival BHP Group and Rio Tinto dipped 2.6% and 2.8 % respectively.

Looking at other individual stocks, Switzerland's ABB surged towards the top of the European benchmark. Shares of the engineering group rose more than 5% after CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer resigned. The surprise move comes at a time when the company is in the midst of its latest overhaul, having been dogged by problems with its internal financial controls.

Meanwhile, Commerzbank was among the top performers during afternoon deals. Shares of Germany's second-largest bank rose around 1.9% after media reports suggested ING had informally approached to takeover the lender.

Business supplies distributor Bunzl tumbled to the bottom of the index amid earnings news. The London-listed stock reported first-quarter growth had slowed as grocery and retail business in its biggest market remained sluggish. Shares of the firm tanked almost 10%.

Global stocks were broadly supported Wednesday after Chinese economic data beat expectations and showed gross domestic product (GDP) in the world's second-largest economy grew by 6.4% in the first quarter. China's industrial output surged 8.5% year-on-year in March, while retail sales rose by 8.7% year-on-year.

Market focus is also attuned to corporate earnings, with a string of U.S. companies releasing their first-quarter reports this week. Tuesday saw mixed results from Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal and Netflix, with shares of the streaming giant falling after it provided lower-than-expected guidance for the second quarter.

Stocks in the U.S. struggled on average in early trade as IBM and Netflix fell on less than stellar earnings news.