While the majority of European sectors finished higher, automakers posted sharp declines Wednesday after President Donald Trump said at a campaign rally that the U.S. would slap 25 percent tariffs on "every car that comes into the United States from the European Union." The sector tanked 2.75 percent.
In a Wall Street Journal interview published Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that a decision regarding autos charges would be delayed because of ongoing negotiations with Mexico, Canada and the European Commission. He declined to set a new timeline.
By the market close, all European carmakers ended in the red, with shares of Schaeffler, Michelin and Faurecia down 4 percent or more. Germany's Continental, however, saw shares slide 13.2 percent after it issued a profit warning, causing other auto supplier stocks to stumble.
On the opposite end, energy stocks posted solid gains on the back of a sharp rise in oil prices. Crude futures popped more than 2 percent after Europe's close following a data release that showed a larger-than-expected drop in U.S. crude inventories.
Looking at individual stocks, hearing aid maker GN Store Nord was Europe's bigger gainer on the STOXX 600 after raising its 2018 sales and profit outlook. The stock shot up by 7.5 percent.
Wood Group popped 6.5 percent, building upon yesterday's gains, after Barclays raised its price target on the stock.
Elsewhere, Norway's Marine Harvest came under pressure Wednesday, after the company — one of the world's largest salmon producers — cut its 2018 output forecast. Shares of the firm fell more than 1 percent by the close.