European stocks close higher after Trump delays EU auto tariffs

Key Points
  • Stocks rebounded worldwide Tuesday following a market sell-off amid escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China.
  • The White House faces a deadline this Saturday to decide whether to slap duties on European car imports.
  • President Donald Trump softened his tone on the trade war Tuesday, referring to it as a "little squabble" and insisting talks had not collapsed.

European stocks made a comeback to trade higher Wednesday on news that President Donald Trump plans to delay the implementation of auto tariffs on European car imports.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed provisionally 0.39% up in trade. Autos jumped 2.02 percent higher after initially being the weakest sector.

Three sources told CNBC the administration will delay those levies by up to six months. The news, which was first reported by Bloomberg News, sent auto stocks higher. Porsche, BMW and Daimler all enjoyed rises of around 3%.

Meanwhile, in a substantial piece of corporate news, reports Tuesday suggested Italian bank UniCredit has stepped up preparations to bid for Commerzbank, just weeks after talks a deal with previous suitor Deutsche Bank fell through. Commerzbank shares traded 2.9% lower Wednesday afternoon.

Dutch bank ABN Amro reported a 20% drop in first-quarter net profit to 478 million euros ($536 million). Its stock recovered to a 1.07% rise during Wednesday.

Credit Agricole also posted falling first-quarter net profits with an 11% decline to 763 million euros, its stock falling 2.6% by mid-afternoon.

Shares of British lender CYBG closed up 3.3% after it swung to a first-half profit, while the worst early performer was German internet company United Internet, which fell 6.29% after its first-quarter results.

Embattled German industrials giant Thyssenkrupp dropped 5% during the afternoon session. The fall came after union IG Metall demanded a fresh concept from the company's management.

Germany announced a return to economic growth in the first quarter Wednesday, a development Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters was a "first ray of hope" following two quarters without expansion.

For the U.S., strategists have urged caution as tensions ratchet up, with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's gauge of recession probability over the next 12 months now at 27.5%, the highest since the financial crisis.

President Donald Trump softened his tone on his global trade war Tuesday, referring to it as a "little squabble" and insisting talks had not collapsed.

Back in Europe, the U.K. government announced that Prime Minister Theresa May will bring her Brexit deal back to Parliament in the week of June 3, as talks with the main opposition Labour party continue despite an apparent lack of progress.