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Europe shares close lower on China, Ukraine fears

European stocks closed lower on Wednesday amid lingering worries over China's economy and concerns about tensions in Ukraine ahead of a referendum in Crimea this weekend.

Ukraine referendum looms

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed lower on Tuesday by 1 percent at 1,308.08 points.

Dual concerns over Ukraine -- which has dogged bourses on the continent for the past week -- and China meant major indexes were broadly lower with all sectors in the red. The German DAX, which outperformed other European stocks yesterday on strong trade data, was down by 1.2 percent.

The FTSE 100 also closed down on Wednesday for the fourth successive session, lower by 0.9 percent, and hitting a one-month low.

U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 flirting with gains after two a two-session drop.

The G-7 group of major industrialized countries issued a statement on Wednesday saying it would not recognize the results of the referendum. They also said that any steps by Russia to annex Ukraine's Crimea region would result in "further action".

"Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome," the G-7 said.

Meanwhile, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told CNBC: "One of the very fundamental principles that everyone decided upon at the end of the Cold War, at the end of the Soviet Union, at the end of Yugoslavia, was: don't change the borders."

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning U.S. financial aid to the "illegitimate regime" in Kiev.

(Read more: Don't change Ukraine's borders: Swedish minister)

"Concerns about the Ukrainian situation are unlikely to go away given that EU leaders seem determined to implement some form of sanctions against allies of President Putin, which could, in turn prompt a counter response," Michael Hewson, a chief market analyst at CMC Markets said in a note on Wednesday.

Russia's Micex index closed down 2.6 percent on Wednesday.

(Read more: Yanukovich: Army will ignore orders)

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
---
DAX
---
CAC 40
---
IBEX 35
---

China concerns linger

Asian markets were lower across the board on Wednesday amid lingering worries over China's economy, while overnight losses on Wall Street further ignited a flight-to-safety.

(Read more: Asian stocks down on China economy fears; Nikkei sinks 2.3%)

Copper was in focus as prices fell to their lowest level in nearly four years overnight. Selling was intensified by worries about cooling Chinese demand and the liquidation of inventories used for finance deals.

(Read more: Is China's bond default the tip of the iceberg?)

Inflation data for Spain showed that consumer prices remained flat in February compared to the month before. This was slightly better than a dip of 0.1 percent that was expected by analysts. The year-on-year figure also came in flat.

Prudential shares rise

In U.K. stocks news, there were two new listings Wednesday. Shares of Pets at Home traded at around 242 pence with the issue price being 245 pence. Fellow retailer Poundland fared slightly better with shares rising to 352 pence after an issue price of 300 pence.

Meanwhile, Germany's Deutsche Post closed lower by 2 percent despite reporting a rise in fourth-quarter profit. Traders remained underwhelmed however with an outlook by the firm failing to meet expectations.

Shares of Prudential climbed by 2.9 percent to a new all-time high after announcing that its 2013 full-year dividend increased by 15 percent and its operating profit rose 17 percent.

G4S - the U.K.-listed security company - saw its shares lose 5.4 percent Wednesday after swinging to a loss in 2013, missing analysts' predictions.

Reinsurance company Swiss Re saw its shares close higher by roughly 0.4 percent after speculation that an Italian trust fund could be looking to buy a stake in the Swiss firm.

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