European shares close slightly lower; Peugeot slides
European equities ended the day slightly lower Friday after a day of flattish trade, as investors continued to speculate over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start to unwind its bond-buying program.
The FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed down 0.1 percent, with most major European bourses ending the day in the red.
It comes after U.S. stocks erased much of their initial gains on Friday, with investors across the globe cautious ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting next week. Helping bolster sentiment, the House of Representatives late Thursday approved a budget that curbs automatic spending reductions and averts another government shutdown.
Earlier in the day, Asian stocks were mixed on the final trading day of the week.
As Ireland gets ready to exit its bailout program this weekend, the country's Finance Minister Michael Noonan told CNBC that there is a "great sense of achievement" that the economy is getting back on its feet.
"We had a major economic and financial crisis that needed to be addressed. We addressed it by a series of progressive measures which we implemented on a time frame," Noonan said in an interview late Thursday. "
He added that exports were likely to be the key driver of the economy going forward and expressed confidence in the government's ability to bring down high debt levels.
(Read more: 'Sense of achievement' as Ireland leaves bailout)
Meanwhile, one of Ireland's top businessmen and political activists, Declan Ganley, warned that the country is worse-off than it was three years ago and is not yet out of the woods.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Bank of Spain announced on Friday that Spain's debt rose to 93.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) between July and September, compared to the government's year-end target of 94.2 percent of GDP.
While German banking regulator Bafin demanded documents from Deutsche Bank as part of a probe into suspected manipulation of benchmark gold and silver prices by banks, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing sources.
One of Europe's biggest fallers on Friday was France's PSA Peugeot Citroen. The stock ended the day down around 12 percent after General Motors said it was selling its entire stake in the French automaker, and places further pressure on the company to secure investment from Chinese firm Dongfeng Motor Co. It comes after Peugeot said Thursday that it took a 1.1 billion euro ($1.52 billion) writedown at its overseas operations.
Shares in RSA Insurance Group also plummeted -- to close around 7.2 percent lower -- after it announced that Chief Executive Simon Lee had resigned, adding that troubles at its Irish unit would adversely affect 2013 earnings.
Some European stocks did manage to end the day in the green, however, with AstraZeneca closing around 1.75 percent higher. The pharmaceutical company said an experimental gout drug had met its goal in a late-stage clinical trial but it had also caused adverse side effects, some of them serious.
Home Retail, a leading home and general merchandise retailer which owns the stores Homebase and Argos, was raised from buy to hold on Friday by Deutsche Bank, helping shares to close higher by 2.21 percent.