European shares extended gains on Wednesday and were on track for their best session since early December, as investors braced for any hints of faster monetary policy tightening from the US Federal Reserve in the face of surging inflation.
The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 1.8%, extending gains to a second session after losing about 4% on Monday, with all sectors in positive territory. Travel was on course for its best day since November 2020 and led gains along with miners.
The Fed will update its interest rate plan at 1900 GMT after a two-day meeting, with markets priced for a first rate hike in March, and three more quarter-point increases by year-end.
The STOXX 600 has seen sharp swings in recent sessions due to geopolitical tension surrounding a potential military conflict in Ukraine, and expectations of a hawkish Fed stance.
"We're seeing a bounce because (European shares) moved so quickly in one direction, so it's not surprising we're finding some stability at these levels. Also, valuations in Europe have fallen sharply, which is offering support," said Nick Nelson, head of European equity strategy at UBS.
"We expect the Fed to be clear about raising rates in March, and once we get past that, markets might be more reassured," Nelson said, adding that investors would soon start to focus on fourth-quarter earnings in Europe, which are also set to be positive for markets.
Italian fashion group Tod's jumped 11.4% after saying sales rose by almost 40% last year, the first increase after five years of consecutive declines, beating market expectations.
Hygiene products group Essity dropped 4.3%, after posting a bigger-than-expected fall in quarterly profit and saying it planned to raise prices further in the face of record high costs.
Italy's biggest debt recovery firm doValue gained 6% after saying it would aim to keep the amount of loans it manages stable at 160 billion euros ($180.5 billion) to the end of 2024.
BioNTech SE gained 3.6% after the company and Pfizer said that they had started a clinical trial to test a new version of their vaccine specifically designed to target the COVID-19 Omicron variant.