Europe Stocks Close Lower as First Half Ends

European shares closed lower on Friday, after a choppy session in which investors traded cautiously. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index closed provisionally 0.4 percent lower at 1,152.36 points, with technology stocks seeing heavy sell-offs. The index ended June with its first monthly loss since May 2012, and its first quarterly loss in a year.


European shares tracked Wall Street on Friday, following speeches from Federal Reserve officials that traders scanned for hints regarding the scaling back of bond purchases.

Fed Governor Jeremy Stein suggested the central bank might consider paring back its bond purchases in September, and added that it would consider the overall state of the economy, rather than giving undue weight to recent tepid economic data.

Meanwhile, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said markets should brace for more volatility, but that the swings will not derail U.S. growth, which he expects to remain at around 2 percent.

In Japan, the Nikkei hit a three-week high on Friday on the back of positive economic reports that include much stronger than expected industrial output and retail sales numbers.

"We had better job market numbers, better production numbers, and even consumer prices are picking up. So data-wise, today is a pretty good day for Japan," said Takuji Okubo, principal and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors.

Meanwhile, traders kept a close eye on gold prices on Friday, as the precious metal dipped below a key level of $1,200 per ounce. Analysts warned that miners could be severely affected if prices remain this low.

(Read More: Three Reasons Gold Will Go to $800)