Europe Markets

European stocks log third straight month of gains; finish week higher

European market closes higher

European stock markets closed narrowly higher, after data released on Friday showed that euro zone unemployment fell in October by the largest amount since April 2011.

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index logged its third straight month of gains on Friday and finished provisionally higher by 0.89 percent for the week.

The European Union's statistics agency said on Friday that the euro zone's unemployment rate fell to 12.1 percent in October from 12.2 percent in September.

Meanwhile, the annual rate of inflation picked up in November to 0.9 percent from 0.7 percent in October, although it remained well below the European Central bank's target level.

Both sets of data ease concerns the euro zone is at risk of entering a period of deflation as a result of weak consumer demand and low levels of bank lending.

Market activity was subdued on Friday after U.S. markets were shut on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, and as fund managers finalized their books for the month. Wall Street resumed trade on Friday but only for a half-day session.

Dutch downgrade

Elsewhere, Standard & Poor's lowered the credit rating for the Netherlands to 'AA plus' from 'AAA', while lifting its outlook for the struggling economies of Spain and Cyprus.

Regarding the Netherlands, the ratings agency maintained its outlook for the country at stable, but said its economic growth prospects were weaker than anticipated.The Dutch AEX index finished the Friday session slightly lower.

S&P raised its credit rating for Cyprus to 'B-/B' from 'CCC plus/C,' arguing that the immediate risks to the country's austerity program had receded. The ratings agency said it was confident the Cypriot government would continue with its austerity program.

S&P also positively revised its credit ratings outlook for Spain to stable from negative. The Spanish IBEX finished provisionally lower by 0.17 percent on Friday.

(Read more: S&P cuts Netherlands rating, raises outlook for Spain)

Elsewhere in Europe, British house prices rose at their fastest rate in more than three years this month, data from mortgage lender Nationwide showed on Friday. The data came one day after the Bank of England announced steps to curb overheating in the property market.

In Germany, retail sales unexpectedly fell in October, cooling enthusiasm over Europe's largest economy.

(Read more: New American export: Black Friday)

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