Markets

European markets close slightly higher ahead of Fed rate decision

Key Points
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up around 0.1%.
  • Finland's Wartsila plummeted to the bottom of the index.
  • Traders looked ahead to the Fed's latest policy decision.

European stocks closed slightly higher Wednesday, amid investor caution ahead of an expected U.S. interest rate cut.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed provisionally up around 0.1%. Europe's oil and gas stocks were among the biggest gainers, up almost 0.5%.

It comes after Saudi Arabia announced late Tuesday that oil production would be fully restored by month-end. The OPEC kingpin's largest oil processing facility Abqaiq and the nearby oil field was attacked on Saturday, knocking out more than half of the kingdom's output.

The drone attack has heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, with Washington blaming Tehran for the attacks. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially increase" sanctions on Iran. The country denies any involvement.

Looking at individual stocks, France's EDF was among the best performers. The state-controlled utility company said Wednesday that it did not need to close any of its nuclear reactors following the discovery of problems with weldings in their steam generators. Shares of the company rose over 3% on the news.

Finnish manufacturing firm Wartsila plummeted over 12% to the bottom of the index by the afternoon, after issuing a profit warning. The company said its 2019 comparable operating profit would be about 100 million euros ($111 million) lower than a year earlier.

Italy's Moncler was another stock in the red, with shares of the Milan-listed stock down 6%. It comes after the chief executive of the luxury brand warned ongoing unrest in Hong Kong could have an impact on business this year.

On the data front, prices of goods and services paid by consumers in Britain rose at an annual rate of 1.7% last month, after a 2.1% increase in July. It marked the slowest rate of expansion since December 2016. The weaker-than-anticipated economic data prompted sterling to dip 0.3% to trade at $1.2460 at around 11:30 a.m. London time.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that Britain was on track for a damaging no-deal Brexit. Addressing EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, Juncker said Westminster's ideas to replace the contentious backstop policy were falling short just six weeks before the U.K. is set to leave the bloc.

On Wall Street, stocks dropped as traders looked ahead to September's Federal Reserve's policy decision. Policymakers are set to conclude their two-day meeting in the afternoon session of U.S. trading.

A quarter-point rate cut is seen as a near-certainty, but investors are also expected to closely monitor the central bank's statement and economic projections.