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European markets edge higher ahead of Trump’s decision on Iran deal; William Demant tanks 10%

European markets edge higher ahead of Trump’s decision on Iran deal; William Demant tanks 10%

European markets were slightly higher Tuesday morning, as investors awaited critical news surrounding the Iran nuclear accord.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up around 0.1 percent during early morning deals, with most sectors and major bourses in positive territory.

Europe’s travel and leisure stocks led the gains, up 0.5 percent amid earnings news. British bookmaker William Hill was the top sectoral performer after it posted its latest figures for the first 17 weeks of the year. The firm said Roma’s shock defeat of Barcelona and an uptick in U.S. March Madness college basketball betting helped drive a 12 percent rise in profits. Its shares were up 2 percent on the news.

Oil and gas stocks were the worst performers shortly after the opening bell, off around 0.3 percent. Norway’s Aker led the losses in the sector after Jefferies downgraded its stock recommendation to a “hold” from a “buy” on Tuesday. Its shares were down 2 percent in early morning deals.

Looking at individual stocks, drugmaker Lundbeck surged towards the top of the European benchmark after it reported better-than-expected earnings in the first three months of 2018. The Danish company said sales of its schizophrenia and depression drugs helped offset the generic competition of its older products. Shares were more than 6 percent higher.

Sticking with Denmark, hearing aid maker William Demant tumbled to the bottom of the European index after a first-quarter growth warning. It said lower demand by the U.K.’s National Health Service was a drag on overall growth over the first three months of the year. Shares of the Copenhagen-listed firm were more than 10 percent lower on the news.

After oil prices climbed to fresh highs Monday, the energy market pared back its gains on Tuesday as political news curbed sentiment. On Tuesday, crude futures fell into the red with U.S. WTI slipping below $70 a barrel, while Brent hovered around $75.40.

Prices were under pressure as the market grew nervous over an announcement by the U.S. administration, concerning the Iran nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump is expected to make a statement on the future of an international nuclear agreement. In the past, the incumbent has frequently threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the deal — which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for the country to pull back on its nuclear ambitions — unless nations in Europe that took part in the accord, amend what Trump sees as weak points of the deal.

Despite Trump’s threats to withdraw, President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran had a plan to counter any move made by Trump when it comes to the 2015 agreement; Reuters reported. The U.S. leader is widely expected to pull out from the agreement, however Rouhani said Sunday, that this would be “making a mistake.”

Sticking with business, Comcast is looking into a $60 billion all-cash bid to surpass Walt Disney on its deal to acquire the majority of Twenty-First Century Fox’s assets — if the U.S. government goes on to approve the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T, people familiar with the matter have revealed. The U.S. broadcaster has also got plans to acquire the whole of Britain’s broadcast firm, Sky, as part of an improved all-cash bid.

In central banking news, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is expected to be in Zurich this morning, taking part in the Swiss National Bank and International Monetary Fund’s High Level Conference on the international monetary system.

—CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

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