By Peter Nurse
Investing.com -- European stock markets traded higher Wednesday, helped by generally positive corporate earnings while investors continue to digest the situation in eastern Ukraine.
The West has responded to Russia’s move into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine by levying sanctions on Russian banks and individuals close to Putin, while Germany has halted the approval of Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The sanctions are to punish Russia’s economy but are not intended to hit energy markets, a senior U.S. State Department official said Tuesday.
They are not as aggressive as the market had feared, and leave the room open for diplomacy to continue in an attempt to prevent the Russian troops from taking over the whole of Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv.
In the corporate sector, earnings continue to flow, with Barclays (LON: BARC ) stock rising 2.8% after the British lender reported a near trebling in its annual profit while returning 2.5 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) to shareholders in 2021 via dividends and buybacks.
Ted Baker (LON: TED ) stock rose 4.6% after the fashion retailer reported higher fourth quarter sales on Wednesday, up 35% on the quarter, as demand for clothing remained robust even in the face of pandemic-related curbs, while Aston Martin (LON: AML ) stock climbed 3.9% after the luxury carmaker narrowed its annual loss in 2021 as sales surged.
Stellantis (PA: STLA ) stock surged 4.3% after the company was formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot (OTC: PUGOY ), beat its profitability target in its debut year, thanks to strong execution on synergies.
Danone (PA: DANO ) stock rose 3.4% after the world’s largest yogurt maker delivered stronger-than-expected sales growth in the last quarter of 2021.
On the flip side, Rio Tinto (LON: RIO ) stock edged 0.2% lower despite the world’s top iron ore producer reporting an almost doubling of annual profit while returning almost $8 billion to shareholders in the form of a final dividend.
In economic data news, the March German GfK consumer climate index fell to -8.1, a drop from -6.7 the prior month, while attention will also be on the final Eurozone consumer price index release for January which is expected to confirm the pressure the European Central Bank is under to curb the significant inflationary pressures.
Oil prices stabilized Wednesday after surging to seven highs during the previous session, with energy supplies to western Europe unaffected by the first wave of the U.S. and European sanctions on Russia for sending troops into eastern Ukraine.
By 3:40 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.3% lower at $91.62 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.3% to $93.62, having Tuesday climbed to its highest level since September 2014.
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