European shares closed mixed on Wednesday, after wavering throughout the day, as investors digested the possibility of easing by the European Central Bank (ECB).
In the U.S., stocks traded lower, with little impetus to push the market higher, despite a strong finish on Wall Street Tuesday, where the crossed 1,900 points for the first time.
ECB policy eyed
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index provisionally closed down 0.1 percent, although other indexes across the region remained near six-year highs. The FTSE 100 ended the day around 0.1 percent higher, close to levels not seen for 14 years.
Elsewhere, valuations continued to be tested, as events in Ukraine weighed and investors also mulled the possibility of easing by the ECB.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the ECB was preparing a package of stimulus options ahead of its policy meeting in June, including cuts in all its interest rates and targeted measures aimed at boosting lending.
But rather than moving higher at the prospect of more liquidity being injected into the region's economy, markets fluctuated, with investors unclear as to when and what sort of measures the central bank could announce.
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Portuguese stocks were among the biggest losers of the day, with the PSI 20 closing around 3.3 percent lower. It followed reports that Portuguese bank Millennium bcp was considering raising capital to increase repayments to the state, according to Reuters.
Also on Wednesday, the final readings of inflation data were released for both Germany and Spain with the harmonized numbers, 1.1 percent year-on-year and 0.3 percent year-on-year respectively, aligning with the flash estimates.
In corporate releases, shares of Germany's Allianz ended the day around 0.7 percent higher, despite the company reporting first-quarter results on Wednesday that were hit by hefty outflows from its Pimco asset management subsidiary.
Broker ICAP also ended the day lower, around 0.38 percent, after reporting a pre-tax profit fall of around 4 percent for its full year.
Promising data out of the U.K. underpinned sentiment that an economic recovery was underway.
U.K. unemployment fell to its lowest level in over five years, while wage growth in the country rose by more than inflation for the first time since 2010.
The rate of unemployment in the three months to March slid to 6.8 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday. This marked its lowest level since the three months to February 2009.
These figures came just before the Bank of England released its inflation report, with Governor Mark Carney playing down expectations of an earlier-than-expected rise in interest rates, despite signs of a pickup in the U.K.'s economic recovery.
Speaking at a press conference following the publication, Carney said a hike in rates will depend on the degree of slack in the U.K. economy, and the prospects for its absorption.