Europe ends under pressure as utilities slip 2%; Fed decision looms

European stocks ended Wednesday’s trading session in the red, as investors waited for the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished down 0.24 percent provisionally, after what had been seen as a choppy trading session. Sectors, meanwhile, showed a mixed picture by the close.

Looking to Europe’s bourses, the FTSE 100 slipped 0.05 percent, while France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX slipped 0.51 and 0.44 percent respectively.

While sector performance was relatively mixed Wednesday, utilities ended up being the worst performers, with the sector slipping 2.11 percent by the end of trade.

Taking a look inside the sector, Germany’s Innogy tumbled to the bottom, off 13.23 percent, after the group adjusted its guidance for the 2017 business year. Consequently the drop in shares weighed on other German utility firms, including RWE — which sank 13 percent — and EON, which was off almost 5 percent.

Switching focus, retailers outperformed a number of industries, boosted by Dixons Carphone. The electricals retailer posted a slump in first-half profits, as consumers were seen holding on to mobile handsets for longer than anticipated; yet CEO Seb James told BBC radio that the group’s sales were at an all-time record high on Black Friday. Consequently, shares rose 8.48 percent.

Sticking with the sector, Inditex saw a slowdown in sales growth during its third quarter, due to warmer weather conditions during Europe’s fall season. However the Zara-owner’s shares rose 1.7 percent, following news that sales had risen both in-store and online during the last month.

In commodities, oil stocks declined as crude futures dropped in afternoon trade, while basic resources was the top performing sector, closing up 0.64 percent.

Looking at individual stocks, shares of Swedish builder NCC Group slipped 8.9 percent in afternoon deals. The firm was on track for its worst trading day since July after it said provisions were likely to significantly impact fourth-quarter results.

In the U.K., Ashtead fell 5.4 percent after Citi downgraded its stock recommendation for the industrial-equipment hire company. Meantime, Kion Group rose 6 percent after Morgan Stanley upgraded its rating and price target on the German-listed stock.

Global markets were focused on the conclusion of the Fed’s two-day policy meeting at which the central bank is widely expected to announce an interest rate hike after the European market close, at 2 p.m. ET. Most market watchers expect a 25-basis point rate increase.

Investors are also watching the Fed for clues about how the central bank will process possible changes to the U.S. tax system going forward. In addition, monetary policy decisions are expected from the BOE and ECB on Thursday.

In other news, markets will be watching the outcome of the Alabama Senate election. Democrat Doug Jones has been projected to win the seat in an historic victory for the party, as it will mark the first time a Democrat has won a Senate seat in the Republican stronghold in 25 years. His Republican opponent, Roy Moore, was hit by allegations of sexual misconduct ahead of the vote.

As politics and central bank decisions continue to shake up sentiment worldwide, U.S. stocks traded higher at Europe’s market close, with the Dow rising more than 100 points. Source: CNBC