Europe Markets

European stocks close higher as investors await Fed minutes

Key Points
  • Minutes from a meeting of the Fed are in focus as investors seek hints from the U.S. central bank over the prospect of policy easing.
  • Trump says the Fed and its chief are the "only problem" for his administration, comparing the central bank chief to a "golfer who can't putt."
  • Shares of Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gained after a report suggested a merger between the two firms remains on the cards.

European stocks closed higher Wednesday as investors awaited minutes from a meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, while President Donald Trump suggested he was weighing measures to boost the world's largest economy.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up over 1.1% , autos leading gains with a 1.7% jump as all sectors and major bourses traded firmly in positive territory.

Shares of Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles both gained after an Italian press report suggested contact between executives at both firms has never ceased and a merger remains on the cards. Renault stock climbed 3.7% while Fiat Chrysler was up 3.3%.

European investors monitored Italian markets late Wednesday and early Thursday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned, kickstarting consultations between President Sergio Mattarella and party leaders in the hope of a solution to the political crisis.

Investors seemed to welcome the prospect of political change, as Italy's FTSE MIB index shrugged off the uncertainty to jump 1.8%.

The minutes of the July meeting by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) are in focus as investors seek hints from the U.S. central bank over the prospect of impending monetary policy easing. The minutes are due out at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, Trump reiterated Tuesday that he was not prepared to make a trade deal with China amid the current standoff, with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei still firmly in Washington's cross hairs. However, he also said he was "thinking about" cutting payroll taxes, less than a day after the White House denied that a payroll tax cut was being discussed.

The president again lambasted Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, placing him under further pressure to ease monetary policy more aggressively. Trump said Powell and the Fed are the "only problem" for his administration, comparing the central bank chief to a "golfer who can't putt."

Britain's tumultuous exit from the European Union remains on investors' radar, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing his EU counterparts of being "a bit negative" but reiterating hopes of reaching a new deal before October 31.

Johnson is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday evening as he seeks flexibility from EU leaders over the Irish backstop, having received a strong rebuke from European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

Germany auctioned a 30-year bond with a negative interest rate for the first time on Wednesday but faced tepid demand, with the sale attracting only 869 million euros ($964.76 million) of bids for up to 2 billion euros of debt on offer. The yield means the German government will not make any interest payments to those buying the bond until it matures in August 2050.

On Wall Street, stocks surged as fresh quarterly earnings numbers from retailers Target and Lowe's buoyed sentiment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 290 points, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indexes were also in positive territory.

Stocks on the move

Pandora continued to surge Wednesday following a strong session on Tuesday as second-quarter results showed promising recovery signs. The Danish jeweler's stock added a further 16.8% by the close.

French household appliances maker SEB gained 6.5% after Citi initiated the company's stock with a "buy" rating, citing strong positioning as a market leader along with improving margins, while Germany's GEA Group climbed around 4% after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to "buy".

At the other end of the European blue chip index, British energy giant Wood Group slipped 4.6% after announcing that it would offload its nuclear business for £250 million ($303.65 million) in a bid to reduce debt.

—CNBC's Spriha Srivastava contributed to this report.