EUROPE MARKETS: European Stock Gains Limited As Auto, Mining Shares Fall; Draghi On Deck

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Draghi to speak in Madrid

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Most major European markets ebbed lower, with automobile makers Daimler AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and mining stocks among those struggling, while investors were preparing to hear from European Central Bank and Federal Reserve officials.

Among benchmarks, Germany's DAX was off 0.2% at 12,635.38 and Italy's FTSE MIB declined 0.3% to 21,345.75.

But the Stoxx Europe 600 latched onto a rise of 0.1% at 392.55, aided by a flip higher for most U.K. blue-chips that nudged the FTSE 100 up 0.2% at 7,499.38.

On a sector basis in Europe, utility, basic material and consumer goods shares were in the red, but health care, technology and telecom stocks were among those advancing.

Investors entered Wednesday's session with a downgrade of China's credit rating at Moody's for the first time in nearly 30 years (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/moodys-downgrades-china-rating-for-the-first-time-in-nearly-30-years-2017-05-24), to A1 from Aa3. Moody's cited concerns about the impact that rising levels of debt will have on the world's second-largest economy, which is a major buyer of industrial and precious metals.

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Mining shares were lower, with Fresnillo PLC (FRES.LN) down 1.8%, iron ore heavyweight Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) (RIO) (RIO) off 1.6%. Boliden AB (BOL.SK) was losing 0.7% and Norwegian aluminum company Norsk Hydro ASA (NHYDY) gave up 1.3%.

Along with China on the radar will be European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who's due to speak at Banco de Espana in Madrid at 2:45 p.m. local time. He'll appear a day after eurozone PMIs showed economic activity remained at a six-year high. It also comes at a time that the euro has marched to six-month highs against the dollar.

"While the European Central Bank is in no position to raise rates, President Draghi [has] acknowledged the improvements in the economy and the reduction in downside risks," Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management wrote earlier this week.

But "the ECB won't be happy with the recent climb in the euro ... and these gains will ease inflation as well as growth," she said.

The euro was buying $1.1181, little changed from $1.1184 late Tuesday in New York. The currency pair will also be in focus when the Federal Reserve released the minutes from its most recent meeting after European trading closes Wednesday.

Read:Fed minutes may quell doubt about a June interest-rate hike (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-minutes-may-quell-fresh-doubts-about-a-june-rate-hike-2017-05-19)

Stock movers: Daimler AG (DAI.XE) fell 2.2%, leading decliners on the DAX, after German authorities raided the company's Stuttgart headquarters (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/daimler-offices-raided-in-diesel-emissions-probe-2017-05-23)and other sites to secure evidence in their investigation in possible diesel-emissions fraud by the car maker. Prosecutors said on Tuesday the offices were raided.

Fiat AG (FCA.MI) fell 0.9%, with the car maker late Tuesday saying it was "disappointed" the U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fiat-chrysler-chafes-against-claims-of-diesel-emissions-cheat-shares-fall-2017-05-23) against the company related to allegations it used software to cheat diesel-emission tests.

Kingfisher PLC shares (KGF.LN) fell 6.5% after the parent of home improvement stores B&Q and Castorama said first-quarter comparable sales fell 0.6% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kingfisher-quarterly-same-store-sales-decline-2017-05-24) on weak sales in France and disruption caused by a company overhaul.

Glencore PLC (GLEN.LN) was down 0.7%. The miner said it "made an informal approach to Bunge (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/glencore-makes-takeover-approach-to-bunge-2017-05-24)...regarding a possible consensual business combination." A deal with grain maker Bunge Ltd. (BG) could make Glencore a major force in the U.S. agriculture market.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 24, 2017 05:52 ET (09:52 GMT)