European equities closed mixed on Wednesday, after euro zone unemployment data for November showed little sign of improving labor markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed lower by 0.05 percent at 1,319.03 points, with upbeat U.S. jobs data giving European bourses a slight boost. Private sector job creation in the U.S. continued at a healthy clip in December, the data showed, with companies adding 238,000 positions.
Investors in Europe remained cautious however, with central bank decisions in Europe and the U.K. due on Thursday. Expectations are growing that the ECB could announce more stimulus measures, following lower than expected inflation data for December.
On Wednesday, euro zone jobs data for November met expectations, but Italian unemployment hit a new high of 12.7 percent.
There was more promising data for retail however, with a 1.4 percent rise in sales in November — the largest jump in 12 years, according to the European Union's statistics agency.
Britain's FTSE 100 fell on Wednesday, with the index closing provisionally 0.6 percent lower. However, the Portuguese PSI 20 closed higher by around 1.3 percent while the Spanish IBEX ended the day unofficially 1.0 percent higher.
Mothercare shares tank
Trading statements also gave investors plenty to think about. J Sainsbury reported that like-for-like sales were slightly higher in the third quarter, boosted by the busy Christmas period. Shares closed the day lower by around 2.4 percent, with analysts citing short covering for the move, as well as concerns that demand could soften.
U.K. retailer Mothercare saw its shares close lower by around 30.6 percent after announcing weak sales for the Christmas period and indicating that its 2014 profit could be below market expectations.
U.K.-listed shares of Domino's Pizza ended the day higher by roughly 3.8 percent after posting a surge in fourth-quarter sales.
Fed minutes ahead
U.S. stocks fluctuated on Wednesday following the prior day's jump, with the ADP private sector employment report exceeding estimates and casting a favorable view on the labor market two days before December's official jobs data.
Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew continued his meetings in Europe on Wednesday. At a press conference in Berlin, Lew reiterated concerns that Germany's dependence on exports rather than domestic demand was unbalancing European and global trade and capital flows.
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