European shares advanced on Wednesday, buoyed by hopes of less aggressive interest rate hikes, while insurer Direct Line fell sharply after scrapping its full-year dividend.
The pan-regional STOXX 600 climbed 0.4%, with market participants awaiting U.S. inflation data on Thursday for clues on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy.
“Investors remain in an upbeat mood going into tomorrow’s U.S. inflation report, buoyed still by the December jobs report and the prospect of the economy being less squeezed by interest rates,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
On Tuesday, Wall Street ended higher and European stocks cut their losses as risk appetite improved on the expectation of softer inflation data and after Fed Chair Jerome Powell refrained from commenting on the U.S. rate policy.
Europe’s STOXX 600 has risen 5.4% so far in the year, helped by a sharp decline in natural gas prices due to warmer weather, and as data pointed to a milder-than-expected recession in the euro zone.
Signs of slowing wage inflation last week also boosted bets of a less aggressive tightening by the Fed and the European Central Bank.
“The real driver of everything this week is the U.S. CPI data due tomorrow and expectations are that it is going to be mildly weaker than expected,” said Mark Taylor, a trader at Mirabaud Securities.
“There is actually maybe a chance that a positive or an inline shock from the CPI may trigger a little bit of profit-taking.”
On Wednesday, rate-sensitive tech stocks rose 1.3%. Energy stocks advanced 0.9%, while miners jumped 0.1% as commodity prices rose on optimism over top consumer China’s reopening of its borders.
Among individual stocks, Direct Line Insurance Group Plc dropped to the bottom of STOXX 600, plunging 23.5% after the British motor and home insurer unexpectedly scrapped its 2022 final dividend.
Rivals Admiral and Aviva fell 6.8% and 2.1%, respectively.
Sainsbury’s, Britain’s second-biggest supermarket group, fell 1.6% after Chief Executive Simon Roberts said he was cautious on the consumer backdrop.
Nevertheless, Britain’s commodity-heavy FTSE 100 hit its highest in more than four years as oil majors and mining giants advanced.
Bayer rose 3.6% as a source told Reuters that activist investor Bluebell was pushing for a break-up of the German pharmaceutical company. Bluebell’s move was first reported by Bloomberg late on Tuesday.
LVMH gained 2.1% after Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault tightened his family’s grip on the luxury goods empire, putting his daughter Delphine in charge of one of its leading labels, Christian Dior.
Denmark’s Jyske Bank hit an all-time high after hiking its full-year outlook. Peers Danske Bank and Sydbank added 1.0% and 0.9%, respectively. (Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V, Subhranshu Sahu and Alison Williams)