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Europe closes higher despite Ukraine tensions

European shares closed higher on Wednesday amid corporate earnings news and ongoing turmoil in Gaza and Ukraine.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed 0.1 percent higher at 1,375 after a cautious open as second-quarter earnings season continued.

The FTSE closed flat, the German DAX closed 0.2 percent higher, while the French CAC was 0.1 percent higher.

Dutch paints and chemicals firm AkzoNobel saw impressive gains after reporting core profit in its second quarter that managed to beat market expectations. The group closed almost 4 percent higher.

However, STMicro shares tumbled 5.8 percent, despite the chipmaker meeting market expectations with its quarterly earnings.

Syngenta, one of the the world's biggest agricultural chemicals groups, posted a fall in profit for the first half of the year, as bad weather in North America hit the crop-protection market. Its shares closed 1.8 percent higher on the report.

GlaxoSmithKline's shares tumbled as much as 5.5 percent after it reported disappointing sales results for the first half of 2014. Sales were hit by a high-profile corruption investigation in China, tougher pricing on its top-selling asthma drug Advair and the strength of sterling.

Outside of earnings, shares of Banco Espirito Santo skyrocketed, closing up 14.5 percent after a Luxembourg court accepted demands for creditor protection from holding company Espirito Santo International on Tuesday.

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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Meanwhile, shares of Finnish technology and service company Outotec Oyj closed 7.5 percent higher on takeover talk.

EU sanctions released

Despite U.S. hopes, the European Union failed to announce tough sanctions against Russia on Tuesday in response to the downing of a civilian plane over eastern Ukraine. The EU did however announce it would widen the list of individuals and companies targeted by asset freezes and visa bans.

On Wednesday, pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets, not far from where the Malaysia Airlines jet was brought down last week.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday to press for a truce in the fighting between Israel and militants in Gaza that has killed more than 600 people. U.S. and European airlines have temporarily halted flights to Tel Aviv, following a rocket attack near the airport.

U.S. stocks rose to new highs on Wednesday, boosted by higher-than-expected earnings from Boeing and PepsiCo announced before the bell.

Boeing gained in early New York trading after the aerospace giant reported quarterly profit above estimates and hiked its full-year forecast. PepsiCo rose after the beverage maker reported revenue that topped expectations.

Back in Europe, the Bank of England released the minutes from its latest monetary policy meeting. These showed that members voted unanimously to keep interest rates at record lows.

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