UK Markets closed

Europe ends on a mixed to positive note as trade war fears rumble on

Sam Meredith

European stocks finished trading mostly in the black on Wednesday, although elevated fears of a full-blown Sino-U.S. trade war continued to linger.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session provisionally up 0.28 percent, with the majority of sectors closing in positive territory.

The U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed up 0.31 percent, while Germany's DAX posted gains of 0.14 percent. France's CAC 40 , however, ended under pressure, down 0.34 percent.

Following Tuesday's sharp losses in the mining sector, basic resources bounced back on Wednesday, with the sector ending in the black — providing slight support to the FTSE 100 . Europe's banking, media and health care stocks were also among those that posted solid gains, on the back of corporate news.

In banks, the CEO of Banco BPM said that the lender was ready to sell its debt collection business, if potential buyers are willing to take on the majority of its bad loans. Shares of the Italian lender rose 2.7 percent. A slew of other Italian banks such as Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo joined Banco BPM, closing above 1.5 percent, near the top of the sector.

The STOXX 600's top gainer was hospital device provider Ambu , which jumped 9.2 percent. Shares of Colruyt popped over 3.5 percent higher after the company reported stronger-than-anticipated yearly figures. Britain's Ocado , meantime, closed up 5.5 percent, after Peel Hunt hiked its price target on the retailer.

Sky shares got a boost in afternoon trade, finishing the day up over 3 percent, after the Walt Disney Co. raised its bid for Twenty-First Century Fox's movie and television assets to a total of $71.3 billion. Fox currently owns 39 percent of the U.K. broadcaster.

Elsewhere, Britain's Berkeley sank to the bottom of the STOXX 600, slipping almost 6 percent after it reported full-year earnings results. Remy Cointreau fell 4.2 percent, after Societe Generale cut its rating on the stock to "sell" from "hold."

Another topic keeping investors busy concerns oil. In Europe, OPEC ministers were seen gathering in Vienna ahead of a key summit to decide oil production policy on Friday. Oil prices ticked higher on Wednesday afternoon, but the sector closed down 0.89 percent.

Trade tensions

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China showed little sign of abating Wednesday , after White House trade adviser Peter Navarro warned that Beijing had underestimated President Donald Trump 's resolve to impose further tariffs.

The Trump administration threatened to impose a 10 percent charge on $200 billion of Chinese goods Monday after Beijing opted to raise tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods. The Chinese Commerce Ministry responded following Trump's statement on Monday, saying it was prepared to take counter measures if the U.S. inflicted additional tariffs.

In Asia, Greater China markets recovered somewhat on Wednesday, after a negative session seen across the region on Tuesday. Meanwhile, U.S. stocks traded relatively mixed a round the Europe market close, recovering somewhat from Tuesday's session when the Dow tanked almost 300 points.

In central banking news, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at an ECB forum that the case for continuing to raise interest rates was "strong," citing solid economic growth and employment.

Brexit vote and BOE

Sterling picked up from a seven-month low versus the dollar after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May won a vote in parliament that should strengthen her Brexit hand.

The House of Commons has now passed May's "EU withdrawal bill" that outlines how Britain will divorce itself from Europe in less than nine months time.

Currency traders with an eye on the pound will now turn their attention to Thursday's Bank of England meeting.