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Europe Stocks Close Slightly Higher as Traders Digest Inflation Data; Alcon Up 14%

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  • U.K. inflation data for July showed an unexpected dip to 2%, while euro zone July inflation increased to 2.2%, above the ECB's target.
  • The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and spread of the highly transmissible delta Covid-19 variant has rattled market confidence.
  • In individual stocks news, Alcon surged 13.5% after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results and hiking guidance.

LONDON — European stocks closed slightly higher on Wednesday as investors monitored inflation data and looked ahead to minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index provisionally ended the session up around 0.1%. Utilities and travel and leisure shares led the gains, both climbing over 1%, while mining stocks were the worst performers.

Market participants were closely monitoring economic data. U.K. inflation data for July showed an unexpected dip to 2% on Wednesday morning. Economists noted that it was likely a blip with data projected to keep trending higher in the coming months.

Meanwhile, July euro zone inflation increased to 2.2%, its highest rate since October 2018. The inflation reading was higher than the European Central Bank's 2% target. The ECB last month relaxed its target to allow prices to overshoot when deemed necessary.

In Asia-Pacific, shares closed higher after New Zealand's central bank kept interest rates unchanged despite expectations of a hike.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were mostly lower as investors awaited the release of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting minutes for insights into when the central bank may start removing stimulus.

The Federal Open Market Committee publishes its meeting minutes from its July meeting on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and spread of the highly transmissible delta Covid-19 variant has rattled market confidence. Investors are also monitoring the potential geopolitical implications following the Taliban's seizure of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan.

In individual stocks news, Carlsberg shares rose 2.3% after the Danish brewer raised its full-year earnings guidance on Wednesday.

American-Swiss eye care company Alcon surged 13.5% to the top of the Stoxx 600 after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results and hiking guidance.

— CNBC's Ryan Browne, Eustance Huang and Maggie Fitzgerald contributed to this article.

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