European stocks close mixed as investors monitor earnings; Philips shares up 5%

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 closes provisionally flat, with sectors and bourses trading in opposite directions.
  • Philips surges to the top of the index after posting strong sales for the second quarter.
  • Voting in the U.K.’s Conservative Party leadership contest is set to close later in the session.

European stocks closed mixed Monday afternoon as investors digested a fresh batch of corporate results.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally flat, with sectors and bourses trading in opposite directions.

In corporate news, Dutch health technology company Philips surged to the top of the index after a stronger-than-anticipated 6% rise in comparable sales for the second quarter. The company cited robust demand for its hospital equipment in China and the U.S. during the three-month period. Shares jumped over 5% on the news.

Meanwhile, Swiss private bank Julius Baer reported a 19% decline in adjusted net profit in the first half of 2019. Outgoing CEO Bernhard Hodler nevertheless said that profitability at the firm had "markedly improved" compared to last year. Shares of the company rose over 1%.

Among the worst performing individual stocks however was British hotel and restaurant chain Whitbread, which slid more than 4% after it returned £2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) of capital to shareholders. The firm said it was not planning any further return of capital.

Leadership contest

On Wall Street, stocks were in choppy territory as traders kept a close eye on the latest earnings season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped about 50 points while the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 indexes were slightly higher.

Market players are also looking ahead to key central bank events, with the European Central Bank set to hold its policy meeting on Thursday and the U.S. Federal Reserve scheduled to make a decision on interest rates next week.

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal suggested the Fed was likely to cut rates by a quarter-point at the July 30-31 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

Late last week, dovish comments by New York Fed President John Williams had boosted expectations the central bank could cut rates by 50 basis points. However, the New York Fed sought to clarify Williams' comments by saying his speech was not about policy action at the upcoming central bank meeting.

The WSJ report said global growth concerns and ongoing trade uncertainties could prompt the Fed to make further cuts over the coming months.

Back in Europe, voting in the U.K.'s Conservative Party leadership contest is set to close later in the session, with the next prime minister scheduled to be announced on Tuesday.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson — widely regarded as the frontrunner in the contest — or Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt will succeed Theresa May to take office on Wednesday.

In relation to Brexit, Johnson has insisted the U.K. must leave the EU by the October 31 deadline "come what may," while Hunt has said he would be prepared to further delay the withdrawal process, if required, to secure a new divorce deal.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on Monday urged Britain's next prime minister to act quickly to boost business and repair the damage of Brexit uncertainty on the country's stalling economy.