European stocks edged higher in the opening minutes of trading Wednesday as investors maintain a cautious stance ahead of today's rate decision in economic projections from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Most benchmarks added modest gains at the start of trading, although the advances were limited owing to a tentative atmosphere ahead of the 2:00 pm eastern time rate announcement from Washington, and the chairwoman Janet Yellen's press conference 30 minutes later, with the U.S. dollar slipping 0.05% to 91.75 and the broadest measure of regional share prices, the Stoxx Europe 600 index, marked down 0.02% at 382.00 points.
Britain's FTSE 100 added 8 points, or 0.11%, at the opening bell even as the pound held steady at 1.3527 against the dollar, with consumer cyclical and financial stocks propping up gains. The benchmark's biggest mover to the upside was U.K. home improvement retailer Kingfisher Plc (KGFHY) , which gained 6.7% after it reported stronger-than-expected first half earnings and announced a small share buyback.
Benchmarks in Germany and France were also stronger in the opening half hour of trading, but only modestly so, as the euro traded past the 1.20 mark against the U.S. dollar following a report from Reuters that suggested the European Central Bank has yet to decide how, or if, it will articulate the end of its €2.3 trillion quantitative easing program.
In Germany, where the DAX performance index gained 1.3 points, or 0.01%, the biggest early mover were shares in Thyssenkrupp AG (TKAMY) , which surged 4.6% to €26.40 each after it unveiled a joint-venture agreement with India's Tata Steel to combine the two group's operations to create Europe's second-largest steel producer.
Global crude prices, however, were active overnight after Iraq's Oil Minister told reporters that OPEC members could still consider extending their production cut pact beyond the March 2018 deadline. He also said there was a chance the production cuts could deepen past the 1.8 million barrel per day level first agreed in November of last year.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures for November delivery, the new active contract, were marked 0.25% higher at $50.40 at 08:30 London time while Brent contracts for November were seen 0.45% higher at $55.40.
U.S. equity futures are essentially unchanged from last night's record closing highs, although the Dow Jones Industrial Average may bump 9.5 points higher at the opening bell.
However, one of the more active shares expected at the start of the U.S. session will be Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY - Get Report) , which slumped more than 12% in after-hours trading late Tuesday following the home furnishing retailer's disappointing second quarter earnings report, which missed analysts' estimates by 28 cents and announced a cost-cutting program
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