EUROPE MARKETS: German Car Makers Prop Up European Stocks, Outweigh Irma-hit Insurers

By Carla Mozee and Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

North Korea tensions still keeping investors on edge, analyst says

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European markets ended a choppy session slightly higher on Wednesday, with German stocks leading the charge higher as auto makers advanced after key ratings upgrades.

Gains in the region, however, were kept in check by concerns over North Korea's nuclear program and insurance companies struggling as Category 5 Hurricane Irma barreled toward the U.S.

After opening in negative territory, the Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.1% to close at 373.95 to snap a two-session losing streak. On Tuesday, the pan-European index slipped 0.1% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-push-higher-as-deal-news-eclipses-north-korea-worries-2017-09-05), losing grip of gains as fears that North Korea would launch another missile spooked investors.

"The same old political uncertainties surrounding North Korea haven't gone away, but for now traders are becoming immune to all the bluster. While there is no new negative news, we may see some buyers enter the fold," said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note.

See:Here's a win-win solution for the U.S. and China on North Korea (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-a-win-win-solution-for-the-us-and-china-on-north-korea-2017-09-04)

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He also said the European Central Bank's rate decision and press conference on Thursday were grabbing investor attention. The key question is whether the policy makers will take the first steps toward tapering its EUR60-billion-a-month bond-buying program or hold off out of fear of ruining the economic recovery.

"The ECB chief, Mario Draghi, is expected to mention the strength of the euro, and how it is holding back the eurozone recovery. Any signs the ECB are getting nearer tapering, may put pressure on eurozone stocks," Madden said.

On Wednesday, Deutsche Bank AG's (DBK.XE) Chief Executive John Cryan said the ECB should begin the process of winding down (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/deutsche-bank-ceo-urges-ecb-to-end-cheap-money-era-2017-09-06) its accommodative monetary policy, regardless of the strength of the euro.

The euro bought $1.1942, up from $1.1915 late Tuesday in New York.

Read:Here's how the ECB got 'stuck in the euro trap' on its way to winding down QE (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-the-ecb-got-stuck-in-the-euro-trapon-its-way-to-winding-down-qe-2017-09-05)

Irma on the move: Shares of insurance firms were in focus as Hurricane Irma, described as a "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm in the Atlantic Ocean, made landfall in the Caribbean (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/potentially-catastrophic-hurricane-irma-makes-landfall-in-the-caribbean-2017-09-06). The storm front is seen heading toward the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida, where a state of emergency has been declared (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/florida-declares-state-of-emergency-as-hurricane-irma-heads-for-region-2017-09-05).

The Stoxx Europe 600 Insurance Index dropped 0.4%, as shares of Swiss insurer Zurich Insurance Group AG (ZURN.EB) dropped 0.7% and Swiss Re AG (SSREY) ended 0.9% lower. AXA SA (AXAHY) gave up 0.5%.

In other movers, Micro Focus International PLC (MCRO.LN) rose 6.2% after the company issued financial results from its new software business, purchased from Hewlett Packard Enterprises (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-hewlett-packard-enterprise-stock-plunged-friday-2017-09-01).

Auto cheer: Auto makers in Germany helped prop up the DAX 30 index , which ended 0.8% higher at 12,214.54. The gain came as new car registrations in Germany rose 3.5% on the year in August.

Shares of Daimler AG (DAI.XE) pvowut on 3.2% after Goldman Sachs upgraded the auto maker to buy from neutral.

Volkswagen AG (VOW.XE) (VOW.XE) and BMW AG (BMW.XE) both ended 1.6% higher.

Outside Germany, shares of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA.MI) (FCA.MI) jumped 4.3% after Barclays lifted the car manufacturer to overweight from equalweight.

Other indexes: France's CAC 40 index ended 0.3% higher at 5,101.41.

In London (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-stocks-swept-lower-as-home-builders-insurers-come-under-pressure-2017-09-06), the FTSE 100 fell 0.3% to 7,354.13, weighed by a higher pound.

Economic data:Orders in Germany's manufacturing sector unexpectedly dropped (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/german-manufacturing-orders-fall-unexpectedly-2017-09-06) in July, falling 0.7% on the month, compared with expectations for a 0.4% rise. But the country's economics ministry said the level of total orders has remained "very high".

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 06, 2017 12:11 ET (16:11 GMT)