LONDON (The Deal) -- Europe's major markets moved lower Tuesday as investors warily turned their attention to the pending Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan meetings, while bellwether companies including BP (BP) - Get Report and Novartis (NVS) - Get Report delivered a mixed bag of earnings.
London's FTSE 100 traded early Tuesday down 0.33% at 6395.98, Frankfurt's DAX was down 0.55% at 10741.70, while in Paris the CAC40 shed 0.51% as it fell to 4872.13.
On the London market, BP rose more than 2% after low oil prices boosted returns from its refining operations, leaving it with a better-than-expected quarterly profit of $1.82 billion. The result, which was 40% down on last year, was a glimpse of silver among dark clouds for the oil producer, which announced further asset sales and investment cuts as CEO Bob Dudley said he was preparing for the possibility of oil at $60 per barrel through 2017.
At the bottom end of the London market, weapons maker Chemring (CMGMF) plunged just over 36% after admitting that revenue delays from a key contract meant it was at risk of breaching debt covenants.
Swiss drugs company Novartis was down just over 2% after it reported a 42% fall in third-quarter net income to $1.8 billion. Novartis was dragged lower by weak sales at its Alcon eye-care unit, a strong dollar and a $390 million provision for a settlement with U.S. authorities relating to allegations of kickbacks to pharmacies that pushed some Novartis medicines.
In Germany, chemicals giant BASF dropped 3.5% after CEO Kurt Bock said that weak oil prices and slowing demand from China and Brazil had forced the company to abandon forecasts of sales growth in 2015. BASF announced a 9.6% fall in third-quarter Ebitda to €1.6 billion.
The overnight movements in oil prices won't have lifted BASF and BP's spirits as Brent and U.S. crude fell amid fears of continued oversupply. Brent for delivery in December dropped to $47.16 per barrel, down 38 cents, while U.S. crude for December tumbled $0.52 to $43.45.
With little decisive earnings news to drive markets, central banks grabbed the spotlight; even if the possibility of decisive policy moves remain remote. The Federal Reserve is due to begin two days of meetings on Tuesday ahead of announcing its rate decision on Wednesday, while the Bank of Japan meets on Friday.
"The markets will remain focused on the Fed ... even if no monetary policy change is expected in the short term," noted Saxo Bank (France) economist Cristopher Dembik. "There won't be any surprise, it will be the meeting in December that will be decisive."
The BOJ deliberations are also expected to deliver a holding pattern, though analysts have suggested the bank could surprise with a stimulus package.
That speculation put the breaks on recent advances in Japan's Nikkei 225, which closed Tuesday down 0.9% at 18777.04.