European stocks closed higher on Wednesday, after U.S. jobs data helped to boost global sentiment, and as investors eyed the possibility of new stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB).
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed higher by 0.3 percent at 1,344.37 points. Most major bourses and sectors posting moderate gains, following a positive handover in Asia and a strong performance in U.S. stocks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Global stock indices are at post-crisis highs – trading at their best levels since December 2007. However, the Spanish IBEX and the Italian FTSE MIB underperformed on Wednesday, closing down respectively around 0.4 percent and 1.1 percent.
The U.S. economy created nearly 200,000 new private-sector jobs last month, a closely watched economic indicator showed on Wednesday, feeding hopes about the economic recovery and a thaw in labor markets. Analysts had expected a gain of 195,000 jobs. The data heightened Wall Street's expectations for Friday's official non-farm payrolls report.
Events in Ukraine, meanwhile, stayed in focus. NATO's General Philip Breedlove described the situationas "incredibly concerning", according to Reuters, adding that Russia has the forces available to carry out an "incursion" into the country in three-to-five days.
Meanwhile, euro zone producer prices fell 0.2 percent in February, according to data out on Wednesday. Analysts continued to weigh up whether the ECB will act to combat weak inflation when it meets this Thursday.
In the U.K., a Nationwide housing price index underlined continuing house price rises. The figures showed prices had risen by 9.5 percent since last year. However, a U.K. purchasing managers' index for construction showed a slight dip in activity. The reading for March fell to 62.5 from 62.6 in February, but still marked an expansion.
Asos shares rise
In stocks news, Deutsche Post shares closed higher by around 4.7 percent after the German company unveiled its new medium-term targets on Wednesday.
U.K. online retailer ASOS shares closed higher by around 0.8 percent after releasing interim results. The company posted a loss but detailed a ramping-up of investment to meet future demand.
Shares of FirstGroup slipped 1.2 percent, despite a trading update by the U.K. travel company that managed to meet market expectations.
Meanwhile, shares of SBM Offshore finished the day higher by roughly 4 percent after an internal bribery investigation by the Dutch firm found evidence that sales agents at some of its African units made improper payments to government officials.
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