European shares closed higher on Wednesday, after flash purchasing managers' index (PMI) data for the euro zone came in better than expected, allowing shares to climb to an eight-week closing high.

The FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed up 0.6 percent at 1,213.87 points on Wednesday, after earnings surprised on the upside, and euro zone business data beat expectations.

Flash composite PMI data, featuring components for the manufacturing and services industry, rose to an 18-month high in July, according to data released on Wednesday. The figure came in at 50.4 - above the 50-mark that divides expanding activity from contraction - compared to June's 48.7.

French flash PMI data also beat expectations in July, with a figure of 49.8 versus estimates of 48.8. The figure for the services sector was 48.3, against estimates of 47.6. The CAC 40 closed up 1.1 percent.

For Germany, the services component of the flash PMI data was particularly strong - the figure for July was 52.5 versus forecasts of 50.8. The German DAX closed up 0.6 percent.

Earnings news also buoyed investor confidence, and the travel and leisure sector closed up around 1.86 percent, led by easyJet. The low-cost airline reported a revenue rise of 10.5 percent in its third quarter and announced strong guidance for the rest of the year.

(Read More: EasyJet shares soars as rivals falter)

There was also good news from Greece, where it was announced that the debt-ridden country only has one more condition to meet to get the next 2.5 billion euro sub-tranche of bailout money on July 29, according to the chairman of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

In the U.S., stocks quickly turned mixed after a higher open Wednesday, weighed by telecoms and materials. However, a handful of better-than-expected earnings from companies such as Apple, Ford and Boeing helped to limit losses.


Asian stocks declined on Wednesday after HSBC's flash estimate of China PMI fell to an eleven-month low of 47.7 in July. The data fueled fears of a further slowdown in the world's second-largest economy and boosted speculation of possible monetary stimulus from the Chinese government.

(Read More: China's factory activity plunges to 11-month low)

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