European stocks fell for a second straight session Wednesday, as investors searched for direction amid volatility in the commodity markets.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -3.26% ended 0.4% lower at 364.19, after swinging between gains and losses throughout the trading. Shortly ahead of the close, the pan-European benchmark was comfortably in positive territory, but started to erase gains as oil prices turned lower.
Earlier in the session, crude oil /zigman2/quotes/209723602/delayed CLF26 -54.38% traded with an almost 4% gain after a U.S. government report revealed that domestic crude supplies fell for the first time in 11 weeks. This helped prop up oil companies in Europe, which for the most part closed higher. Shares of Royal Dutch Shell PLC /zigman2/quotes/204253697/delayed UK:RDSB -10.44% /zigman2/quotes/207682964/composite RDS.B -10.22% gained 1.7% and BP PLC /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP -8.48% climbed 0.8%.
The Stoxx 600 had started higher following Tuesday’s drop of 1.8% that was led by a slump in metals and energy producers.
“It’s worth pointing out, however, that sentiment continues to appear weak and the market really does need some fresh direction to be served up, otherwise the risk is that stocks end up becalmed as many investors remain side-lined until that key U.S. interest rate verdict next week,” said Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, in a note.
Movers: Among companies on the decline on Wednesday, Anglo American PLC /zigman2/quotes/201381512/delayed UK:AAL -3.15% dropped 1.2%. That adds to Tuesday’s 12.3% tumble that came after Anglo’s decision to suspend dividend payments through 2016, cut capital spending by another $1 billion and reduce its workforce by more than half.
Jefferies on Wednesday cut its rating on Anglo American to underperform from hold and said there’s a risk Anglo American will launch an equity issuance.
Stagecoach Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/206082799/delayed UK:SGC -3.93% slumped 14% after issuing a sales warning.
Bayer AG /zigman2/quotes/210533053/delayed DE:BAYN -2.60% ended 2.1% lower after news of the possible Dow Chemical Co. /zigman2/quotes/203121064/composite DOW -3.77% and DuPont Co. /zigman2/quotes/203606582/composite DD -5.90% merger.
Data: German exports fell 1.2% in October from September, hurt by lower demand from China, Russia and other economies that have seen slowing growth. But total German exports at 106.2 billion euros ($115.90 billion) were 3.3% higher than in October last year, in non-adjusted terms, helped by strong European orders.