Europe Markets

European stocks close higher; Fed minutes watched

European market closes higher

European equities closed higher on Wednesday, but investors remained cautious ahead of the release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's October meeting.

Fed minutes eyed

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index closed unofficially 0.1 percent higher at 1,297.5 points, having reversed direction in the afternoon after reports the European Central Bank was mulling setting negative deposit rates.

However, investors continued to keep a keen eye on any sign that the U.S. Federal Reserve might be looking to curb it's current $85 billion-a-month liquidity program.

"Tonight brings the week's main event with the publication of the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting," Emily Nicol, an economist at Daiwa Capital said in a morning note.

"While Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing at the Senate banking committee last week gave few signals about the likely path for near-term policy, the minutes will be watched closely for any clues as to when the Fed is looking to start tapering."

(Read More: If Fed minutesreveal taper talk, watch yields)

Speaking at the annual National Economists Club members dinner in Washington, Bernanke said the U.S. central bank would maintain its easy monetary policy for as long as needed and will only begin to reduce bond-buying once it is assured that labor market improvements will continue.

Fed is trying to reassure markets 'once again'

BoE policy watched

In other news, JPMorgan Chase has reached a record $13 billion settlement with federal and state authorities to resolve claims over the bank's sales of mortgage-backed securities that collapsed during the U.S. housing crisis.

Also on Wednesday, The Bank of England's (BoE) monetary policy committee (MPC) expressed "uncertainties" over the durability of the U.K.'s economy recovery, according to the minutes of its last meeting.

The committee also said there "could be a case" for not raising the main interest rate when the country's unemployment rate hits 7 percent. The bank has previously given guidance that it would not consider raising the main interest rate (Bank Rate) from its current 0.5 percent until the jobless rate falls to this level.

(Read More: Bank of England sees 'uncertainties' in recovery)

Footballing fillip

In stocks news, French broadcaster TF1 received a bounce after the French soccer team received the finals of the World Cup next year after beating Sweden on Tuesday evening. Shares of the company - who own the rights to the tournament - climbed 4.17 percent.

German retailer Metro rose to the top of the Euro Stoxx 600 Index after two upgrades by Citigroup and Barclays; shares rose by 5.8 percent.

Shares of German financial services company Wire Card fell by 3.5 percent after Barclays cut its outlook to "equal weight" from "overweight".

Steelmaker Thyssenkrupp saw its shares fall by around 2 percent on Wednesday after media reports that it had reached a deal to pay Deutsche Bahn damages for its role in a cartel. There was also news that the company is in talks to sell its U.S. steel processing plant.

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