European stocks ended unchanged on Wednesday as losses in Italian utilities outweighed gains in travel and bank stocks, while global markets were range-bound ahead of a policy update from the US Federal Reserve.
Global equity markets were lacklustre as investors shifted their focus towards the Fed’s annual symposium on Friday in the hope that it will deliver hints on the likely timeline for its tapering of asset purchases.
The Iseq climbed 1.3 per cent, outperforming major European indices, as it was lifted by gains for financial stocks and Paddy Power-owner Flutter Entertainment.
AIB added 2.2 per cent to €2.56, and Bank of Ireland closed 3.8 per cent higher at €5.30 on a strong day for banking stocks across Europe. Flutter Entertainment rose 3.7 per cent to €168.95 and was also one of the best performers on the FTSE via its London listing.
Packaging group Smurfit Kappa added 0.7 per cent to €49.30, Ryanair nudged up 0.2 per cent to €16.50, and building materials group CRH rose 0.3 per cent to €43.95. Glenveagh Properties closed 1.8 per cent higher at €1.03 ahead of its interim results announcement on Thursday.
The FTSE 100 rose 0.3 per cent, lifted for the fourth straight session by gains in financial and travel-related stocks, while investors assessed risks from rising Covid-19 infections globally and easing economic growth.
Limiting Wednesday's advances were consumer goods makers including Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser, and supermarket group Sainsbury's, all down between 0.3 per cent and 1.2 per cent.
The domestically-focussed mid-cap index ended 0.4 per cent higher after touching a record high. Waste management firm Augean surged 17.5 per cent after it said it had agreed to a buyout offer from a group affiliated to London-based investment manager Ancala Partners.
Subprime lender Amigo dropped 4.5 per cent after it said its losses increased substantially.
Marks and Spencer climbed 5.1 per cent after analysts Deutsche Bank rated the retailer as a "buy".
Grafton Group climbed 3.8 per cent after the owner of Woodie's DIY reported record profits for the first half of the year and offered an upbeat outlook.
The region-wide Stoxx 600 index closed largely unchanged at 471.84 points after a record close on Wall Street on Tuesday night. The European benchmark itself was just less than 1 per cent away from its peak.
Travel and leisure stocks gained 1.8 per cent to hit their highest level in almost two weeks, while banks rose 1.8 per cent.
German stocks fell 0.3 per cent. German business morale fell for the second month running in August as companies took a dimmer view about the coming months due to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and supply bottlenecks, a survey from the Ifo institute showed.
Earlier this week, IHS Markit’s survey showed the pace of euro zone business growth dipped from July’s two-decade-high.
Among stocks, Swedish radiation therapy equipment maker Elekta slid 7.8 per cent and was the worst performer on the Stoxx 600 after it flagged higher costs.
Deutsche Bank's recommendations spurred moves among retail stocks, with Zara-owner Inditex and H&M slipping over 1 per cent after the brokerage rated them as "sell", while Adidas and Puma rose 1.5 per cent after an upgrade to "buy".
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes scaled record highs on Wednesday on gains in chipmakers and financials, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s highly anticipated annual symposium.
Semiconductor firms Nvidia and Applied Materials and mega-cap growth stocks Google-owner Alphabet, Tesla and Facebook gained between 0.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent, providing the biggest boost to the Nasdaq.
Among other stocks, Nordstrom tumbled 16 per cent after the department store operator posted a 6 per cent decline in quarterly revenue from pre-pandemic levels and flagged supply chain issues and stiff competition.
– Additional reporting: Reuters