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Europe stocks close down on Fed mixed signals

European equities closed lower on Wednesday as investors continued to fret over mixed signals from U.S. Federal Reserve officials regarding its bond-buying operations.

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The FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed down 0.6 percent at 1,283.26 points, tracking markets in Asia and the United States, as heightened talk about a scaling back of the Federal Reserve's monetary stimulus weighed on sentiment.

Fed fears

On Tuesday, Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart said the "encouraging" October jobs report would not fundamentally change the equation when Fed policymakers gather next month to decide whether to reduce the pace of their asset purchases. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said in a speech on Tuesday that with weak inflation "there is no reason to be afraid of monetary stimulus."

Their comments follow those of Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher who told CNBC earlier on Tuesday that "tapering could not go on forever."

On Wednesday, comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will be watched for further hints on the direction of monetary policy. Meanwhile, Vice Chairman Janet Yellen will testify before the Senate Banking Committee during her confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Speaking to CNBC earlier on Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was optimistic about the pace of growth in the U.S. and stressed that the world cannot rely on the U.S. to support the global economy.

U.S. stocks mostly fell on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials and S&P 500 looking at their first back-to-back losses this month.

A faster than anticipated recovery in Britain's employment market was also increasing speculation that record low interest rates of 0.5 percent could be raised sooner than presumed. The FTSE 100 closed the day down 1.4 percent.

Plenum disappoints

Investors were also disappointed with the lack of concrete details on policy reforms announced at China's Third Plenum meeting. Leaders pledged to let markets play a decisive role in the economy over the next decade, but no further details were provided.

The CNBC Asia 100 index, which tracks the performance of the largest companies in the Asia Pacific region, fell 1 percent to a one-month low. Basic resources stocks - with their heavy exposure to the country - closed down 1.4 percent.

(Read more: Too soon to dismiss China's 'vague' plenum?)

In the U.K., the Bank of England (BoE) predicted that the nations' economy could see 7 percent unemployment as early as the last quarter of 2014, if interest rates stay low - two years earlier than it had expected in August.

However, it said it believed the unemployment rate was more likely to hit 7 percent at the end of 2015 or end of 2016, giving such predictions a 57 percent and 68 percent probability respectively based on market interest rates. It added that hitting the unemployment target would not necessarily trigger a rate rise.

(Read More: Bank of England raises UK growth, unemployment forecasts)

U.K. jobless data was released on Wednesday showing the claimant count and the unemployment rate both fell. Unemployment was down to 7.6 percent for the July to September period versus 7.8 period in the period before.

Euro zone industrial production figures missed expectations. The month-on-month figure saw a decrease of 0.5 percent, against estimates for a fall of 0.3 percent. However, the year-on-year figure rose by 1.1 percent, above forecasts in a Reuters poll.

In stocks news, shares of Danish shipping group Moller-Maersk provisionally closed higher 1.03 percent after both its net profit and revenues beat analyst expectations in the third quarter.

(Read More: Moller-Maersk ups outlook as profit beats)

Supermarket Sainsbury's reported half-year underlying pre-tax profit of £400 million on Wednesday, versus £374 million a year ago; shares closed up by 2.9 percent with the firm also indicating it had increased its market share.

(Read More: Sainsbury's gains market share, earnings rise)

Carlsberg kept its revenue forecasts for this year unchanged, despite reporting weak sales in Asia; shares in the Danish closed minimally higher, up 0.9 percent.

Banks weighed on the Italian sector after Unicredit reported a 40 percent drop in third-quarter net profit and a bigger than expected fall in net interest income. Banco Popolare recorded net write downs up 17 percent in the third quarter, to 248 million euros ($333.25 million). Shares closed down 4.49 percent and 6.09 percent respectively, with the Italian FTSE MIB down 1.5 percent.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld

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