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Financials, energy boost European shares; central bank verdicts eyed

Published 19/03/2024, 08:44
© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 18, 2024. REUTERS/Staff

By Khushi Singh and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) -European stocks ended higher on Tuesday buoyed by strength in financial and energy sectors, while investors turned their focus to upcoming interest rate decisions from global central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.3%, snapping a three-day losing streak.

The energy sector was among the top gainers with an 1.4% advance, as oil prices hit four-month highs. [O/R]

Financial stocks were a major boost, with the banking index climbing 1.1%, led by gains in Germany's Commerzbank (ETR:CBKG).

Investor focus remains on the Fed's monetary policy decision on Wednesday, after last week's hotter-than-expected inflation data prompted traders to reduce their bets for a June interest rate cut.

Among other top central banks, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) ended eight years of negative interest rates on Tuesday, while the Bank of England is due to deliver its interest rate verdict later in the week.

The BOJ announcement "turned out to be kind of a non-event and so now, it's wait and see (for) what the Fed and the Bank of England has to say," said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank looks poised to initiate the rate-cut cycle in June after a string of policymakers, including ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos, hinted at such a possibility.

Keeping a lid on gains was a 0.4% decline in Europe's technology stocks.

"Technology stocks are weaker because of the profit-taking we're seeing in the U.S. and other global technology stocks," Sosnick added.

Unilever (LON:ULVR) rose 3.1% after the company said it plans to spin off its ice cream unit into a standalone business, as the consumer goods group announced a new cost-savings programme that would cut 7,500 jobs.

Property platform Hemnet jumped 7.6% to the top of STOXX 600 after Jefferies raised its rating on the stock, while Siemens dropped 5.8% after its finance chief commented that revenues at its flagship digital industries division will be flat in the second quarter.

© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 18, 2024. REUTERS/Staff

Atos shares slumped 19% after the company said Airbus had called off discussions about buying the French software firm's BDS cybersecurity unit.

German investor morale improved more than expected in March on expectations of an ECB interest rate cut and positive signs out of China, the ZEW economic research institute said on Tuesday. The DAX index ended up 0.3%.

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