VIENNA (dpa-AFX) - The European markets got off to a weak start Wednesday and remained in negative territory for the bulk of the session. However, most of the markets manage to inch into positive territory late in the afternoon. The strong performance of the energy stocks was largely responsible for pushing the markets into positive territory.
Investors were in a cautious mood ahead of the European Central Bank's policy decision tomorrow. A mixed batch of corporate earnings results also failed to spark much in the way of buying interest.
Crude oil prices rose above $52 a barrel Wednesday after Saudi Arabia's oil minister said certain non-OPEC countries will join OPEC and Russia in curbing supplies.
'Non-OPEC is showing willingness to join this effort. And without mentioning names, many countries have said they are willing to not only freeze, but cut at healthy levels that will match whatever is going to happen by OPEC,' Khalid Al-Falih said at the Oil and Money Conference in London.
The U.S. EIA also reported this morning that U.S. crude inventories dropped by 5.2 million barrels last week.
The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index advanced 0.34 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks increased 0.29 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, added 0.21 percent.
The DAX of Germany climbed 0.13 percent and the CAC 40 of France rose 0.25 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. gained 0.31 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished higher by 0.24 percent.
In Frankfurt, Metro AG advanced 1.58 percent after the retail giant reported a slight dip in fourth-quarter sales.
In Paris, retailer Carrefour climbed 4.69 percent after its third-quarter revenue topped estimates.
Defense firm Thales gained 2.15 percent after raising its order intake outlook.
Total increased 0.28 percent and Technip rose 0.93 percent.
In London, Travis Perkins, the U.K.'s biggest builders' merchant, sank 4.50 percent after a profit warning.
Reckitt Benckiser Group tumbled 2.62 percent. The consumer goods giant narrowed its revenue growth outlook after reporting a bigger-than-expected decline in third-quarter sales.
Mining giant BHP Billiton is rose 0.54 percent after reporting a slide in quarterly iron ore production.
Royal Dutch Shell increased 1.02 percent and BP rose 0.87 percent. Tullow Oil also leaped 1.56 percent.
Paints and specialty chemicals firm Akzo Nobel tumbled 2.42 percent in Amsterdam after reporting a decline in quarterly revenue.
Semiconductor equipment maker ASML Holding jumped 2.21 percent after it forecast higher profit margins in the final three months of the year.
Eurozone construction output declined for the first time in five months in August, Eurostat reported Wednesday. Construction output contracted 0.9 percent month-over-month in August, reversing a 1.5 percent gain in the previous month.
The U.K. unemployment rate remained unchanged at a near 11-year low in the three months to August, signaling the resilience of the British labor market to the shock 'Brexit' vote in June. The ILO jobless rate was 4.9 percent, where it has been since the three months to May, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Wednesday. The figure was in line with economists' expectations.
British households' finance outlook worsened in October on higher inflation expectations, while their financial pressures intensified to the strongest level in five months, results of a survey by IHS Markit and financial information provider Ipsos Mori revealed Wednesday.
The seasonally adjusted Household Finance Index, or HFI, dropped to 43.8 in October from 44.7 in September.
China's economy grew at a steady pace in the third quarter as domestic factors helped to maintain the momentum, despite subdued global demand.
Gross domestic product expanded 6.7 percent year-on-year in the three months to September, the same pace of growth as seen in the first and second quarters, the National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday. The annual growth was in line with economists' expectations.
The NBS also reported some key economic indicators for September. Annual growth in industrial production eased unexpectedly to 6.1 percent in September from 6.3 percent in August. Output was expected to increase 6.4 percent.
Meanwhile, retail sales grew at a slightly faster pace of 10.7 percent year-on-year, in line with expectations, after expanding 10.6 percent in August.
Suggesting weakness in the housing market, the Commerce Department released a report on Wednesday showing that new residential construction in the U.S. unexpectedly tumbled to its lowest level in well over a year in September.
The report said housing starts plunged by 9.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.047 million in September after slumping by 5.6 percent to a revised 1.150 million in August. The continued decline came as a surprise to economists, who had expected housing starts to climb to a rate of 1.180 million from the 1.142 million originally reported for the previous month.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department also said building permits surged up by 6.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.225 million in September after rising by 0.7 percent to a revised 1.152 million in August. Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, had been expected to increase to 1.165 million from the 1.139 million that had been reported for the previous month.
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