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Europe ends lower as Yellen stays dovish

Europe ends lower as Yellen stays dovish

European equities ended lower on Wednesday as investors focused on a slew of corporate earnings and a second day of testimony by the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Shipping giant climbs

European Markets: FTSE, GDAXI, FCHI, IBEX

European stocks took a pause for breath after recent gains, with the pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index closed around 0.2 percent lower as banking stocks outperformed the wider benchmarks. Danske Bank shares fell over 1 percent as shipping giant Moller-Maersk said it would sell off its 20 percent stake in the Danish lender.

Moller-Maersk shares, meanwhile, surged over 9 percent as it posted a rise in net profit to $5.2 billion for last year, from a figure of $3.8 billion the year before.

Read MoreShipping giant eyes pick-up in global demand

On the U.K.'s FTSE 100, Weir Group shares slumped as much as 10 percent as the engineering group warned of a "significant reduction" in 2015 revenue.

Greek extension approved

Investors took a breather from recent concerns over Greece on Wednesday. There had been fears that the country could be on a collision course with its international lenders but Athens presented Tuesday a list of reforms that have met the approval of its creditors and euro zone neighbors.

The approval means that Greece has secured a four-month extension to its bailout program that was due to end in a matter of days. However, the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank who oversee the country's bailout said the reform plans needed greater clarity.

Greek stocks finished around 1.5 percent lower on Wednesday after a considerable rally on Tuesday.

Yellen ahead

Day two of Yellen testimony

U.S. stocks traded in a narrow range on Wednesday after closing at highs on Tuesday, as investors looked at housing data and listened to Fed Chair Janet Yellen's second congressional testimony.

The key headline for many out of Yellen's remarks on Tuesday was the dismissal of a rate hike for "at least the next couple of FOMC meetings." Today, Yellen will address the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

"The markets didn't get what they expected which was a speech and tone unexpectedly more dovish than many had been expecting," Michael Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a morning note.

"While some may argue that yesterday's comments haven't changed that much they do fly in the face of the recent optimism surrounding recent jobs data."

AXA up 4%

We're cutting costs: Weir Group

In other stocks news, Suez Envronnement shares dipped over 6 percent on Wednesday after reporting flat revenue in its full-year earnings.

Shares of AXA rose 2.7 percent as the insurer reported a 12 percent profit climb with cost-cutting plans giving a boost to earnings.

Meanwhile, Telefonica shares slipped 1.5 percent after reporting a sharp fall in its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday morning. However, shares had turned around and closed around 1.7 percent higher.

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