RTTNews - European stocks may further consolidate at current levels after recent sharp gains, even as investors digest better-than-expected earnings from insurer Axa and banker Societe Generale.

Consumer confidence in Great Britain improved for the fourth straight month in July, according to the latest survey by the Nationwide Building society. The mortgage lender reported Wednesday that its consumer confidence index for July registered a reading of 60, compared to the June reading of 59, due to an improving housing market.

The British industrial production report together with the results of the Purchasing Managers' Index survey for the service sector of major European economies, due to be released in the session, may offer more clue about the health of the domestic economy. Focus would also be on a slew of economic reports from the U.S. due later in the session.

After some mixed performance in early trading, Asian stocks drifted lower on Wednesday, as investors took profits ahead of the release of U.S. employment report for July due out Friday. U.S. index futures also point towards modest losses on Wall Street Wednesday morning.

U.S. stocks ended Tuesday's trading on a positive note amid some late session buying interest. On the economic front, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing that pending home sales growth in June exceeded economist estimates by a wide margin. Earlier, the Commerce Department released a report showing that personal spending increased by slightly more than expected, while personal income fell by more than expected.

The major averages showed a notable upward move going into the close, climbing back above the unchanged line. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.36%, the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.13% and the S&P 500 index rose 0.3%.

Crude oil futures snapped a 3-day rally, ending down 16 cents or 0.22% at $71.42 a barrel on Tuesday, as traders booked profits after recent gains. In Asian trading on Wednesday, crude oil prices opened higher, but have since then slipped to $71.30 a barrel ahead of the release of inventory data from the U.S. Energy Administration Department due in the day.

In corporate news, Yamana Gold reported second quarter net earnings of $9.6 million, compared to $42.1 million in the prior year quarter. Adjusted earnings fell to $95.8 million or $0.13 per share from $102.7 million or $0.15 per share in the year-ago quarter.

Swiss financial giant UBS AG is reportedly close to hiring former Merrill Lynch executive Robert McCann as the head of its wealth management business in the Americas.

Europe's second-biggest insurer AXA SA reported a smaller-than-expected 39 percent drop in its first-half profits, with the decline reflecting weaker earnings across its three main divisions.

Barco NV, a leading manufacturer of digital cinema projectors, has been selected as the exclusive digital projector supplier for the 62nd Locarno Film Festival.

Frankfurt stock market operator Deutsche Boerse posted a bigger-than-expected 34 percent fall in second-quarter operating profit.

French bank Societe Generale SA on Wednesday reported a return to profit in the second quarter after a first-quarter loss, but on a year-over-year basis, net profit fell 52 percent to ?309 million from ?644 million a year earlier.

Old Mutual plc reported profit for the first six months of fiscal 2009, on IFRS basis, of GBP 27 million, sharply lower than prior year's profit of GBP 685 million.

The European currency edged down against its major counterparts during Wednesday's early deals. At 2:15 am ET, the euro was quoted at 1.4390 against the US dollar, 0.8507 versus the British pound, 1.5266 against the Swiss franc and 136.52 versus the Japanese yen

The European markets fell on Tuesday, as banking stocks slipped after UBS reported its third straight quarterly loss and Standard Chartered unveiled a surprise £1 billion share sale. The FSTEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.24% lower, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index fell 0.16%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index slipped 0.24%, France's CAC 40 index edged down 0.04% and Germany's DAX index lost 0.18%.

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