(Reuters) - European stocks pulled back slightly on Wednesday from their strongest closing high in more than a year as clashing headlines on Britain’s last-minute efforts to forge a divorce deal with the European Union left investors hanging on the outcome.
Hopes of a breakthrough took the pan-European STOXX 600 to its highest close since May 2018 on Tuesday, but the index closed down 0.1% with London's exporter-laden FTSE 100 .FTSE, which tends to fall when the pound gains, lagging the most with a 0.6% decline. [GBP/]
A report that the main stumbling block to a deal had been removed to news that the talks had hit a “standstill” made for a choppy trading session, but expectations of a no-deal Brexit faded.
“It’s all about which way the Brexit wind is blowing,” said Edmund Shing, global head of equity derivatives strategy at BNP Paribas. “We’d see a lot of more interest in domestic cyclical names (if there was a deal).”
Britain's domestically focused midcaps .FTMC, which have rallied 5% in the past three sessions to reach their highest level in a year, ended flat on Wednesday, while Irish stocks .ISEQ, which have come to be seen as a gauge of Brexit sentiment, fell 0.5%.
Any new deal will still have to go to a fractious British parliament.
Among other regional indices, Germany's GDAXI .DAX gained 0.3%, while France's CAC 40 .FCHI was flat.
London-listed shares of Rio Tinto (RIO.L) fell 1.7% after the miner said its iron ore shipments rose 5%, but it cut its bauxite and alumina production forecast for the year.
Rio’s shares also took a hit from China iron ore plunging to a six-week low following a weak demand outlook.
The wider European mining sector .SXPP was down 0.8%, while the financial services .SXFP shed more than 1% on declines in British stocks.
Investor focus shifts now to Europe’s earnings season, which gets under way in earnest next week. Analysts expect an earnings recession to deepen as companies struggle with uncertainties around Brexit, a protracted U.S.-China trade spat and Germany’s manufacturing recession.
STOXX 600 companies are now expected to report a drop of nearly 3.7% in third-quarter earnings, worse than the 3% fall expected a week ago, I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv showed.
Shares in Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML (ASML.AS), which has surged over 70% this year, declined 4.5% after reporting higher-than-expected quarterly profit and bookings.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru and Josephine Mason in London; Editing by Alison Williams