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European Stocks Close Lower as Investors Monitor Ukraine-Russia Crisis

Sergei Guneyev | Tass | Getty Images
  • Global markets have been under pressure this week, with traders rattled by geopolitical tensions over the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • Shares of Barclays and Stellantis climbed after posting strong corporate results.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower on Wednesday as geopolitical tensions over the Russia-Ukraine crisis overshadowed a strong set of corporate earnings.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed down by 0.3%, with retail shares slipping 1.8% to lead the losses.

Global markets have been under pressure this week, with traders rattled by events in Europe after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine. The move came after he announced Monday evening that he would recognize their independence.

The EU and U.K. announced sanctions on Russia earlier Tuesday, and the U.S. followed later in the day. President Joe Biden announced a first tranche of sanctions against Moscow, targeting Russian banks, the country's sovereign debt and three individuals.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were lower, with the S&P 500 dipping deeper into correction territory amid mounting Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Analysts say the outlook for Federal Reserve rate hikes after March may become less clear if Russia continues its incursion into Ukraine. U.S. Treasury yields retreated as Ukraine-Russia tensions rose, and the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury fell below 2% as investors sought out safe haven assets.

Earnings in focus

Earnings on Wednesday came from Barclays, Wolters Kluwer, Stellantis, Rio Tinto, Uniper, Danone, Henkel and Aston Martin Lagonda.

Barclays beat expectations as full-year net profit quadrupled in 2021, led by record performance in its corporate and investment banking division. The British lender's shares gained 3%.

Stellantis beat its profit target in the company's first year following the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot maker PSA, posting an adjusted operating profit margin of 11.8% versus a 10% target. Shares jumped over 4%.

Dutch coffee giant JDE Peet's saw its shares rise more than 14% to lead the Stoxx 600 in early trade after posting a rise in full-year core profit that came in ahead of analyst expectations.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Swedish investment company Storskogen Group fell roughly 17% after its fourth-quarter earnings report.

On the data front, the GfK consumer sentiment index from Germany came in at -8.1 heading into March, from -6.7 points in the previous month, as a rise in Covid-19 infection rates and concerns about inflation darkened morale in early February.

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- CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this market report.

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