European shares closed lower on Wednesday, with investors reacting to fresh economic data from the euro zone and the U.S., and looking ahead to Thursday's European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.
Greek stocks rise
The pan-European FTSE Eurofirst 300 provisionally closed 0.8 percent lower at 1,368.41 points after trading flat for most of the session. Nearly all major European bourses were in negative territory by the close of play on Wednesday.
Greek shares managed to break the mold with the Athens Stock Exchange closing up around 0.1 percent. This followed a report by the Financial Times which suggested that ECB President Mario Draghi was hoping to persuade bank officials to buy Cypriot and Greek bank loans as part of its latest stimulus program. Alpha Bank, the National Bank of Greece and Bank of Piraeus all saw strong gains on Wednesday.
Investors likely remained cautious ahead of tomorrow's rate decision by the ECB. Inflation data on Tuesday showed that consumer price growth has slipped further towards negative territory and new data on Wednesday morning showed activity in the euro zone's manufacturing sector slowed more than first estimated in September.
Some expect Draghi to shed more light on the current program of purchasing asset-backed securities on Thursday but others believe that he could even speak of plans to buy government bonds in a Federal Reserve-style quantitative easing package.
In the U.S., stocks declined sharply Wednesday morning, following the S&P 500's seventh quarterly gain.
In stocks news, Orange closed down over 3 percent on the news that the French government has sold its 1.9 percent stake in the firm.
Shares of U.K. supermarket chain J Sainsbury closed close to 6 percent lower, after initially opening higher, with the company announcing a sales drop in its fiscal second quarter. It highlighted that shoppers are making more frequent visits but spending less during each trip.
Cable maker Nexans shares closed sharply lower, down around 8.9 percent, after it too issued a sales warning.
Meanwhile, Adidas shares ended the day higher after the sports clothing company said it planned to buy back 1.5 billion euros ($1.89 billion) worth of its own shares.
Also in Germany, online retailer Zalando debuted on the Frankfurt stock market. The shares started trading up 12 percent, but pared gains later in the day.
HK protests continue
Asian stocks had been mixed on the first day of the fourth quarter as investors focused on political unrest in Hong Kong and key Chinese data.
Pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong gained momentum as China's national holiday kicked off on Wednesday. Now in its fifth day, the mass campaign has spread to the city's Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district and continues to disrupt businesses.
Hong Kong markets are closed until Friday, while Shanghai markets are shut until October 7.
Meanwhile, China's official purchasing manager's index (PMI) for September came in unchanged from the previous month at 51.1. The data follows HSBC's final PMI reading on Tuesday, which was also unchanged from August.
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