Europe Closes Off Lows on US Data

European shares recouped most of their earlier losses to end flat near 4-1/2-year highs on Wednesday, after robust U.S. retail sales data pointed to a continued recovery in the world's biggest economy.

However, Italy's FTSE MIB Index, closed down 1.7 percent, underperforming the market following weaker demand at its first bond auction since Fitch cut the country's credit rating.

Italy sold four different bonds, including three- and 15-year paper.

"For an important auction of longer-dated paper, this does not inspire confidence," Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy said in a research note.

"The political stalemate in Rome is denting sentiment towards Italian debt, albeit in a fairly muted manner. There's still a disconnect between the severity of Italy's political and economic crisis and the continued resilience of its bond market."


Analysts said that the broader stock market was poised to rise further in the coming days as the improving economic outlook could prompt more investors to park their money in equities at the expense of other asset classes.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index of top European shares provisionally ended flat at 1,194.07 points, after hitting an intra-day low of 1,188.98.

"The underlying sentiment is pretty bullish. People are neglecting several uncertainties and focusing on growth as hopes for a recovery in the global economy have improved. Equities are a better alternative to invest in in the current environment," said Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich.

"My preferred sectors in Europe are stable growth stocks like food and beverages, personal and household goods and healthcare."