European markets open to close, earnings, data

LONDON — European stocks were mixed on Wednesday, continuing the cautious regional trend this week.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 hovered just above the flatline by late morning, with travel and leisure stocks adding 1.6% while health care stocks fell 0.8%.

The mixed trade for European stocks comes after markets pulled back slightly on Tuesday, tracking risk-off sentiment globally as investors assess whether last month’s rally has further to run.

It’s a busy day for earnings in Europe, with Commerzbank, SocGen, BMW, Banco BPM, Siemens Healthineers and Veolia and Wolters Kluwer among the companies reporting before the bell.

Shares of Czech cybersecurity firm Avast soared 43% after the U.K.’s competition regulator provisionally cleared its $8.6 billion sale to U.S. peer NortonLifeLock.

At the bottom of the Stoxx 600, BMW fell 5% after its earnings report.

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On the data front, euro zone retail sales dropped by more than expected in June, falling 1.2% month-on-month for a 3.7% year-on-year decline as prices continued to rise, denting consumer demand.

In the United States, stock futures pointed slightly higher in premarket trade on Wednesday after the three major averages fell for a second consecutive day on Tuesday.

In regular trading hours, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan weighed on investors, who worried it would further strain already tense U.S.-China relations. China had spent weeks warning her not to make the trip.

Markets fell further after three Federal Reserve presidents hinted that further rate hikes would be necessary to combat high inflation.

Overnight, shares in the Asia-Pacific were mostly higher Wednesday, with mainland China markets leading gains despite Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which is being closely watched by Beijing.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted that Pelosi’s visit was a “major political provocation,” while a spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said it would conduct “a series of joint military operations around the Taiwan Island from the evening of August 2.”

Those operations include long-range combat fire live shooting in the Taiwan Strait and conventional missile firepower test launching, the statement said.

— CNBC’s Tanaya Macheel and Abigail Ng contributed to this report.

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