Europe shares close higher; Next, Telecom Italia surge

European equities closed higher on Friday as retail stocks helped bourses post gains, with Next seeing a rise of 10 percent.

The FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed higher by 0.5 percent, at 1,312.04 points.

This followed losses for Asian shares despite upbeat global economic data as profit-taking set in amid low trading volumes.

However, U.S. stocks climbed on Friday, a day after Wall Street got off to its first negative open to a year since 2008, as investors waited to hear Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's thoughts on how the economy is faring.

Among the major U.S. automakers reporting Friday, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group both reported December U.S. sales below Wall Street's estimates.

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Fed officials speak

Patrick Latchford at Monex Capital Markets said the overall mood of global markets did not appear to be positive going into the New Year.

"(It) does seem to be one of acceptance that 2014 is unlikely to be a vintage year for equities against this backdrop of rising borrowing costs and as a result there is no shortage of sellers at these levels," he said in a note on Friday.

Attention now turns to a raft of speeches in the U.S. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke, alongside Plosser, Lacker, Stein, Dudley and Rosengren, are due to speak and markets will be looking for hints of further reductions in monthly bond purchases.

Retail stocks up

Retail stocks posted the biggest gains across the sectors and helped European markets to buck the trend.

U.K.-based Next reported a strong holiday sales period and its shares provisionally closed higher by 10.03 percent. Shares of fellow retailer Marks & Spencer also saw some buying despite the firm not releasing its results till next week, closing higher by around 3.88 percent. AB Foods, which owns retailer Primark, also rose, closing higher by roughly 1.32 percent.

Telecom Italia were higher by 6.79 percent, after a press report that Spain's Telefonica is working on a joint offer for the Italian phone group's Brazilian unit TIM Brasil.

Shares in Remy Cointreau fell on Friday after the surprise resignation of Frederic Pflanz, the group's chief executive, after only three months in the job. Shares in the maker of Remy Martin cognac and Cointreau liqueur closed down by around 2.55 percent.

Many advanced economies are likely to require financial repression, outright debt restructuring, higher inflation and a variety of capital controls, a new research paper commissioned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

Spanish unemployment figures showed their second-biggest drop ever on Friday, falling by 2.24 percent on the month. This left 4.7 million out of work, according to the data from the Labor Ministry.

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