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LONDON: European and US stock markets were slightly stronger on Wednesday before a US Federal Reserve interest rate decision, as investors took account of slowing eurozone growth and a batch of company results.

Traders forecast the Fed would deliver its first rate cut in ten years later in the day, despite data pointing to strong consumer confidence and rising home sales.

"The US central bank (is) expected to cut rates for the first time in a decade, but given the high expectations amongst market participants there is plenty of scope to disappoint," said XTB analyst David Cheetham.

The British pound regained composure against the euro and dollar, having plumbed two-year lows this week on heightened no-deal Brexit fears.

London's stock market index was an outlier meanwhile, giving up 0.8 percent at the close, with Lloyds bank shedding 3.2 percent on news of sliding first-half profits.

Frankfurt added 0.3 percent while Paris gained a mere 0.1 percent as official data showed that eurozone economic growth slowed to 0.2 percent in the second quarter, down from 0.4 percent in the previous three months.

Air France-KLM shares soared by 8.5 percent as second-quarter profits climbed while rival Boeing struggles to get its flagship 737 MAX line back in the air.

Airbus stock gained 0.3 percent after the European aerospace giant said it profits had more than doubled in the first half of the year.

 

- Bruising trade war -

========================

 

Elsewhere, Asia equities flagged earlier as the latest round of US-China talks on their bruising trade war came to an end in Shanghai.

Washington and Beijing have hit each other with punitive tariffs covering more than $360 billion in two-way trade so far.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin finished two-day talks with their counterparts in China's financial capital on Wednesday.

The talks were relatively brief and the Washington delegation left for the airport earlier than expected without speaking to reporters.

Expectations began low and took a further hit after US President Donald Trump launched an attack on Beijing's negotiators which also rocked Wall Street traders on Tuesday.

"My team is negotiating with them now, but they always change the deal in the end to their benefit," Trump tweeted.

In other signs of fallout from the trade row, China reported a third straight month of contraction in manufacturing, despite efforts to shore up the sector.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a gauge of Chinese factory conditions, came in at 49.7 for the month, slightly above Bloomberg forecasts but below the 50.0 mark that separates growth from decline.

Global sentiment won a limited boost after Apple on Tuesday delivered stronger-than-expected results in the quarter just ended as growth from services helped offset weak iPhone sales.

In midday New York trades, Apple shares jumped by more than four percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average showed a gain of less than 0.1 percent meanwhile.

- Key figures around 1600 GMT -

============================

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,586.78 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.3 percent at 12,189.04 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,518.90 (close)

New York - Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 27,218.87

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 3,467.56

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.9 percent at 21,521.53 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.3 percent at 27,777.75 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,932.51 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2221 from $1.2152 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 91.10 pence from 91.80 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1127 from $1.1155

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.58 yen from 108.61

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.7 percent at $65.20 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.7 percent at $58.46

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019