Joe Biden

European Stocks Close Lower as Ukraine War, Inflation Weigh; Stoxx 600 Down 1%

Source: NYSE
  • The main economic news of the day came out of the U.K., where Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced a number of tax to mitigate an historic hit to living standards.
  • U.K. inflation came in at an annual 6.2% in February, its highest since March 1992.
  • In Ukraine news, President Joe Biden was in Brussels Wednesday and on Thursday will attend an emergency NATO summit, meet G-7 leaders, and address EU leaders at a meeting of the European Council.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower on Wednesday as global investors continued to assess inflation concerns and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed down by 1%, with almost all sectors and major bourses in negative territory. Utilities stocks fell 2.5% to lead losses while oil and gas stocks bucked the downward trend to add 2%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Dutch insurer Aegon climbed 2.6% after announcing that the sales of its businesses in Poland, Romania and Turkey are expected to be completed in 2022, while its Hungarian arm will be sold to Vienna Insurance Group.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Swedish financial group SEB fell 9% on its ex-dividend date.

UK Spring Statement

The main economic news of the day came out of the U.K., where Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced an immediate cut to fuel taxes and a longer-term tax reduction for workers in a bid to mitigate the country's historic hit to living standards.

U.K. inflation came in at an annual 6.2% in February, its highest since March 1992, as soaring food, fuel and energy costs continue to deepen the country's cost of living crisis.

Investor sentiment is being weighed down more broadly by concern over rising inflation and the war in Ukraine. On Wall Street, U.S. stocks fell as oil prices continued to climb.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said earlier this week that the central bank is set to take tough action on inflation, with traders now betting the Fed will drive up interest rates even faster than expected just last week.

European traders continue to monitor events in Ukraine closely. President Joe Biden is heading to Brussels on Wednesday and on Thursday will attend an emergency NATO summit, meet G-7 leaders, and address EU leaders at a meeting of the European Council.

Biden and his European counterparts will announce new sanctions against Russia and new measures to tighten existing sanctions during his trip to Brussels this week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for more pressure on Russia from other countries as the conflict appears to be entering a stalemate. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the alliance is likely to bolster troops along its eastern flank in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

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- CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report

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