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Important information: The value of investments can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This is a third-party news feed and may not reflect Fidelity’s views.

Europe midday: Shares cling to gains as investors eye Fed

(Sharecast News) - European stocks opened slightly higher on Wednesday as markets looked ahead to more data from Germany and the latest in interest rate decision from the US Federal Reserve, while shares in H&M fell sharply after the shock departure of the company's chief executive. The pan-regional Stoxx 600 index was 0.10% higher at 486.12 with Continental bourses mixed. Spain's IBEX outperformed the broader market after data showing the economy grew more than expected in the final three months of 2023.

In economic news, retail sales in Germany unexpectedly declined again in December, according to data released on Wednesday by the federal statistics agency Destatis.

Sales dropped by 1.6% during the last month of 2023, surprising economists who had pencilled in a rebound of 0.7% following a 2.5% decline in November. Compared with December of 2022, sales were down 1.7% after a 2.4% annual fall the month before.

Meanwhile unemployment in Europe's largest economy held steady at the start of the year, official data showed on Wednesday, despite the weak economic backdrop.

According to the Federal Employment Agency, the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate was 5.8% in January. While it remains the highest since June 2021, the rate was narrowly below forecasts for 5.9%.

Inflation in France eased faster than expected, coming in at 3.1% in January compared with 3.7% in December, according to INSEE, the French statistics office.

China factory activity contracted again in January, for the fourth successive month, according to official PMI survey data.

In equity news, Novo Nordisk shares gained after the Danish company beat earnings expectations amid soaring demand for weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes drug Ozempic.

H&M meanwhile plunged 7.4% as it made a surprise announcement of a new CEO and missed an operating profit forecast.

Shares in Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis fell despite the company reporting 10% growth in net sales and 18% higher core operating income. However, core net income missed expectations.

Croda shares gained on a readacross after US peer Ashland guided for higher sales in the second quarter, driven by healthy demand.

Reporting by Frank Prenesti for Sharecast.com

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Important information: This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice. When you are thinking about investing in shares, it’s generally a good idea to consider holding them alongside other investments in a diversified portfolio of assets. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

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