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European markets rally despite US data sparking inflation fears

Sam Meredith
  • The euro area economy maintained a healthy growth pace at the end of last year, paving the way for another robust performance in 2018.
  • U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected, sparking fears over inflation. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent in January.
  • Volatility in the region followed the much-anticipated U.S. inflation data, which came in above expectations.

European stocks extended gains Wednesday afternoon, as investors tried to shake off concerns surrounding U.S. inflation data and focus on positive corporate earnings.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 recovered from earlier volatility, jumping over 1 percent in later trade, with major bourses posting sharp gains. Turbulence in the region came after the much-anticipated release of the U.S. inflation data, which came in above expectations.

Sectors moved back into the black in late afternoon trade, as U.S. markets attempted to rise after dropping sharply at the start of its trading session.

H&M fails to impress

Media stocks outpaced fellow sectors Wednesday, up almost 2.5 percent altogether, with Rupert Murdoch's Sky among the top performers. The broadcaster saw shares rise 2 percent. This came after the British firm announced that it had tightened its grip on live televised Premier League soccer matches. Sticking with the sector, Ses led the pack, trading up over 6 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, Credit Suisse CSGN-CH reported a net loss of 983 million Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) for 2017 on Wednesday as U.S. tax write-downs resulted in a third consecutive annual loss . However, the latest figures from Switzerland's second-largest bank were slightly better than analysts had expected. Shares jumped over 3.5 percent.

Coca-Cola HBC rose near the top of the STOXX 600, up over 6 percent after reporting full-year sales and profits that came in above market estimates.

France's Credit Agricole ACA-FR posted a 33 percent jump in profits for the final three months of 2017, as its investment banking unit outperformed in challenging market conditions. Its shares slipped over 3 percent in trade.

Industrial and technology group ThyssenKrupp announced that first-quarter operating profit had risen by more than a third amid a recovery in its steel unit. Shares were initially near the bottom of Europe's benchmarks, but has since pared most of its losses.

Swedish retailer H&M sank over 4.5 percent after the company reported that e-commerce sales were expected to rise by at least 25 percent in 2018, but sales in stores were likely to fall, before bouncing back in 2019.

US inflation beats expectations

Markets remained on edge during Wednesday's session, with investors clearly scarred by last week's frenzied U.S.-led market sell-off. In Asia, stocks finished the day relatively mixed as investors remained anxious over the U.S. inflation report due.

When the CPI data was released before Wall Street's open, markets in the States tanked after consumer prices rose more than expected in January, sparking fears over inflation. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent last month against forecasts of a 0.3 percent rise. Headline CPI on an annualized basis also was above market expectations . The U.S. data weighed on European markets and currencies, causing the STOXX 600 to briefly go negative, before recovering lost ground.

The euro area's economy maintained a healthy growth pace at the end of 2017, paving the way for another robust performance in 2018. Gross domestic product ( GDP ) increased 0.6 percent from the previous three months, Eurostat reported Wednesday.

—CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report



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