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European stock futures edge higher, BNP Paribas results


Investing.com -European stock markets are expected to edge higher at the open Wednesday, as investors await the conclusion of the crucial Federal Reserve policy meeting as well as euro zone unemployment data and more corporate earnings.

At 02:00 ET (06:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.2% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.1%, and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.1%.

Stock markets recorded sharp losses on Tuesday as investors fretted about the health of the U.S. banking system in the wake of the weekend’s collapse of First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC), the largest U.S. bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis, with the shares of other regional banks under pressure.

However, there appears to be more confidence surrounding the European banking system, particularly after troubled lender Credit Suisse (SIX:CSGN) was taken over by Swiss rival UBS (SIX:UBSG).

Quarterly results have been generally strong so far, with Europe’s largest bank, HSBC (LON:HSBA), for example, reporting a tripling of profits and the restoration of its dividend on Tuesday.

BNP Paribas (EPA:BNPP), the euro zone's biggest bank, continued the run Wednesday, with the French lender reporting its profit more than doubled in the first quarter from a year ago, bolstered by the sale of its U.S. retail division while revenue beat estimates.

Additionally, UniCredit (BIT:CRDI), Italy’s largest bank, raised its guidance for the year, after joining peers in posting stronger than expected first quarter income, while British lender Lloyds (LON:LLOY) is also scheduled to report its earnings.

That said, gains are likely to be limited Wednesday as the markets await an announcement on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and a subsequent press conference later in the session.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to lift rates by a quarter point so a lot of attention will be on the Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with investors likely to parse through his comments to see if cuts are likely this year as well as his views on the state of the financial system.

Back in Europe, the main economic release will be the March unemployment number for the euro zone, which is expected to stay at 6.6%.

In other corporate news, Lufthansa (ETR:LHAG) posted a first-quarter loss of €273 million (€1 = $1.1022), an improvement from a €577M loss in the year-earlier period, and the German airline said it expected strong demand for holiday travel this summer to help it reach its full-year targets.

Oil prices steadied Wednesday ahead of news from Fed policymakers, but remained near five-week lows despite a bigger-than-expected fall in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Data from the industry body American Petroleum Institute, released on Tuesday, showed U.S. oil inventories stockpiles fell for a third week in a row for the first time since December, down some 3.9 million barrels last week.

Traders will look for confirmation from the Energy Information Administration later in the session, but this generally supportive news has made little impression on a market fretting about the likely impact on economic activity, and thus crude demand, of another U.S. interest rate hike.

By 02:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.2% lower at $71.55 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.1% to $75.25.

Both benchmarks closed at their lowest since March 24 in the previous session.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.1% to $2,023.95/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% higher at 1.1019.

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