European stocks struggled for direction on Tuesday, with banking shares declining ahead of the US and UK central bank meetings this week, while Sweden’s H&M surged after reporting a better-than-expected profit.
Shares in the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer jumped 12 per cent, on track for their biggest gain in almost six months, after its preliminary quarterly profit was better than expected and it signalled a better recovery from the pandemic.
The broader retail index rose 1.4 per cent.
Markets remained rangebound ahead of the conclusion of the US Federal Reserve's monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the first since Chairman Jerome Powell unveiled a shift toward greater tolerance of inflation, effectively pledging to keep interest rates low for longer.
The Bank of England is also set to meet on Thursday, and likely to signal that it is getting ready to pump more stimulus into Britain’s coronavirus-hit economy.
UK’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1 per cent, barely reacting to data that showed unemployment rate rose 4.1 per cent in the three months to July - the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March - although it was in line with economists’ expectations.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was flat. Th Dublin market outperformed most of its peers, rising 1.1 per cent in early trading with Flutter, CRH and Kingspan among the gainers. Bank of Ireland and AIB were also higher.
Euro zone banks slid 1.5 per cent, the most among sectors. ECB board member Fabio Panetta became the latest to highlight risks from a strong currency, saying the results of its stimulus measures are "not fully satisfactory yet."
Meanwhile, a paper seen by Reuters showed France and Germany have called on the European Union to ease bank capital and bonus rules to avoid crimping the flow of credit to an economy trying to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
Fiat Chrysler rose 5.6 per cent and Peugeot maker PSA slipped 2.1 per cent after the carmakers restructured the terms of their planned merger to conserve cash.
Auto parts maker Faurecia slid 7.4 per cent as PSA would postpone the planned spin-off of its 46 per cent stake in the company, according to a new arrangement.
Europe’s mining sector rose 0.8 per cent after data showed China’s industrial output accelerated the most in eight months in August, while retail sales grew for the first time this year, suggesting its economic recovery was gathering pace.