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European Stocks Close Lower after US Housing Slowdown

Major European indexes closed lower after U.S. existing-homes sales fell 8% in September to a record low 5.04 million unit because of troubles in the subprime mortgages and credit markets.

European markets had been trading higher earlier in the afternoon session Wednesday, shrugging off confirmation that Merrill Lynchsuffered a bigger-than-expected $7.9 billion writedown due to the summer credit crisis.

But after the data, the Paris CAC-40 finished in the red, despite a 0.3 percent rise in shares of Alcatel-Lucent after it announced Tuesday it would work with Research In Motion to distribute the BlackBerry in China. Shares of RIM up over 8 percent.

Shares of Germany's Merck ended 1.4 percent lower on a slightly weak DAX index , despite beating market expectations with a 56 percent jump in quarterly operating profit, boosted by sales of its liquid crystals, multiple muscle-sclerosis drug and cancer medicine Erbitux.

In Sweden, truck maker Volvo reported a slightly smaller-than-expected increase in third-quarter pretax earnings but raised its guidance for its European market this year, sending shares higher by 5.2 percent before the close.

Amsterdam's AEX failed to get a lift from TomTom's solid third-quarter earnings. The Dutch navigation solutions satellite navigation company reported a 36 percent rise in net profit and shares jumped 8.7 percent.

And London's FTSE-100 index struggled after Home Retail issued a cautious outlook for its UK market.