Europe Markets

European markets close lower; euro zone inflation hits three-year high; Next down 14%

European markets closed in negative territory on Wednesday despite euro zone inflation figures hitting a three-year high.

The pan-European Euro Stoxx ended 0.12 percent lower on Wednesday with most sectors down on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 edged 0.17 percent higher at the close while the French CAC and German DAX bourses were flat.

Retail stocks were among the worst performing on Wednesday, off by more than 1.36 percent at the close. The U.K.'s retailer Next hit the bottom of the European index closing down by more than 14 percent. Share prices suffered after the fashion and housewares store announced it would be cutting profit guidance for the financial year and referenced "exceptional" levels of uncertainty.

On the other hand, banking stocks were up for a third consecutive day, gaining by 0.55 percent. The newly emerged Italian Banco BMP was 1.49 percent higher on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average continued higher on Wednesday as investors cautiously awaited a potential breakthrough the 20,000 threshold.

The latest flash euro zone inflation figures released Wednesday morning showed an increase of 0.5 percent increase in consumer prices. The yearly rate moved from 0.6 percent in November to 1.1 percent in December.

The Bank of England said Wednesday that consumer credit grew at its fastest pace since 2005 in the month of November.

The new year has started with the release of upbeat economic data, boosting global equities. The U.S. dollar retreated from hitting 14-month highs against a basket of currencies on Wednesday. The greenback appeared to be weighed down as investors became anxious regarding the lack of clues concerning the U.S. economy throughout 2017.

The autos sector pared some losses having been one of the worst performers throughout most of the trading day. Michelin shares ended down by 2.3 percent after Societe Generale downgraded the stock from buy to hold. Volkswagen was also down by more than 1.2 percent at the close. Lawyers in Germany filed the first lawsuit looking for compensation for consumers after the emissions scandal, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The European Commission has extended its deadline for a decision over ChemChina's proposal to buy the Swiss pesticide firm Syngenta. Shares of the latter were slightly higher.

Meanwhile, Italian lender Intensa Sanpaolo has proposed plans to loan 5.2 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to Glencore and Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, who are purchasing a stake in Russian oil firm Rosnef. The shares of the bank were up by more than 1.4 percent.

Oil prices edged higher on Wednesday as investors digested promising signs that the world's top oil exporters would stick to agreed output cuts took effect this week.

Brent crude traded at around $56.28 a barrel on Wednesday, up 1.59 percent shortly after the European close. While U.S. WTI was around $53.18 a barrel, up 1.61 percent.

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