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European Shares End Slightly Higher

European shares finished slightly higher Wednesday following positive comments from China's new leaders, but gains were limited after a weak euro zone business sector report.

The FTSEurofirst 300 Index eked out a gain.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
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DAX
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CAC 40
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IBEX 35
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Business survey released showed that the euro zone's economic slump was a little less pronounced than initially thought in November but still showed a contraction in activity. Markit's euro zone composite PMI, which measures business activity across thousands of companies, rose in November from October.

Weak retail sales for the euro zone also weighed on stocks. They showed a sharp fall for October. The volume of trade in the bloc fell 1.2 percent in October from September which is the worst drop since April this year.

In Spain, PMI data showed the service sector in the country contracted for the 17th month in a row with the IBEX Index erasing earlier gains after the news. The Spanish treasury successfully completed an auction on Wednesday morning of 10-year benchmark bonds with the average yield dropping to 5.29 percent from 5.458 at a previous auction.

Investors looked to the U.K. on Wednesday as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced his Autumn Statement on the outlook for the U.K. economy, government public finances and spending plans to parliament.

Ireland is also releasing its budget on Wednesday in which 2.25 billion euros ($2.95 billion) worth of spending cuts and 1.25 billion euros of tax increases are to be announced, including a new property tax and increased taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and cars.

In stocks news, the retail sector was one of the major gainers across European indexes after U.K. supermarket chainTesco announced a "strategic review" of its U.S. Fresh & Easy stores. Analysts told CNBC that the news was positive for the company's outlook and shares opened over 4 percent higher.

In China, the new Communist Party leadership promised more policy reforms on Wednesday which boosted the Shanghai Composite Index. This had a knock-on effect for European-based miners with basic resources stocks leading markets higher.

Also on Wednesday, reports said British retail tycoon Philip Green in talks with a U.S.private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners over the sale of a 25 percent stake in high street chain Topshop and Topman.

U.K.-based investment management firm Brewin Dolphin Holdings released full-year results showing profits were up by a third; shares were higher by 1.89 percent.

Business software firm Sage also released full-year results that were in line with expectations but underlined that exchange rates were impacting on the firm; shares fell.

Stagecoach Group released first-half earnings showing a jump in profit; shares opened up 2.47 percent.

The highest gainer in European markets was Nokia as the firm announced a deal to launch a new Lumia phone with China Mobile; shares were higher by over 5 percent.