European stocks edge higher; banking sector leads ahead of Fed

·3-min read

Investing.com - European stock markets traded higher Wednesday, as generally positive earnings from the banking sector boosted confidence ahead of the conclusion of the crucial Federal Reserve policy meeting.

At 03:55 ET (07:55 GMT), the DAX index in Germany traded 0.5% higher, the FTSE 100 in the U.K. gained 0.5%, and the CAC 40 in France climbed 0.5%.

The quarterly earnings season has given European investors something to digest as they wait for the latest policy news from the Federal Reserve, due later in the session.

Worries about the health of the U.S. banking system in the wake of the weekend’s collapse of First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC), the largest U.S. bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis, resulted in sharp losses on Tuesday.

However, the tone in Europe is more optimistic, with the region’s banking sector looking much more healthy.

UniCredit (BIT:CRDI) stock rose over 6% after Italy’s largest bank raised its guidance for the year, after joining peers in posting stronger than expected first quarter income.

BNP Paribas (EPA:BNPP) stock rose 0.4% after the euro zone’s biggest bank’s first-quarter sales beat market expectations helped by its outperforming trading business.

Lloyds (LON:LLOY) stock rose 0.3% after the British lender posted pretax profit of £2.26 billion (£1 = $1.2515) in the first quarter, above estimates, although this number was helped by lower loan impairments.

Elsewhere, Lufthansa (ETR:LHAG) stock fell 3.5% after the German airline posted another quarterly loss even as it expected strong demand for holiday travel this summer to help it reach its full-year targets, while Aston Martin (LON:AML) stock fell 3.2% after the luxury car maker reported a quarterly pretax loss.

That said, gains are limited Wednesday as the markets await an announcement on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and a subsequent press conference later in the session.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to lift rates by a quarter point so a lot of attention will be on the Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with investors likely to parse through his comments to see if cuts are likely this year as well as his views on the state of the financial system.

Back in Europe, the main economic release will be the March unemployment number for the euro zone, which is expected to stay at 6.6%.

Oil prices continued to weaken Wednesday ahead of the likely interest rate hike by the Fed, despite a bigger-than-expected fall in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Data from the industry body American Petroleum Institute, released on Tuesday, showed U.S. oil inventories stockpiles fell for a third week in a row for the first time since December, down some 3.9 million barrels last week.

Traders will look for confirmation from the Energy Information Administration later in the session, but this generally supportive news has made little impression on a market fretting about the likely impact on economic activity, and thus crude demand, of another U.S. interest rate hike.

By 03:55 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1% lower at $70.95 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.8% to $74.70.

Both benchmarks closed at their lowest since March 24 in the previous session.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.1% to $2,023.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.3% higher at 1.1034.

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