Investing.com - European stocks remained lower on Wednesday, as the release of upbeat euro zone economic reports dampened expectations that the European Central Bank would tighten monetary policy at its upcoming meeting on Thursday.
During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 edged down 0.17%, France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.25%, while Germany’s DAX 30 fell 0.27%.
Official data showed that retail sales in the euro zone increased by 1.6% in January, easily surpassing expectations for a 0.8% gain. Retail sales fell 1.3% in December, whose figure was revised from a previously reported drop of 1.6%.
Separately, data confirmed that the bloc''s services purchasing managers’ index rose to 52.6 in February, from a final reading of 51.6 in January and higher than the flash estimate of 51.7.
The rate of growth in Italy’s service sector rose to an almost three year high last month.
Financial stocks remained broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale climbed 0.44% and 0.43%, although Germany''s Deutsche Bank slid 0.36%.
Among peripheral lenders, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo advanced 0.31% and 1.30% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA edged up 0.11% and 0.12%.
Elsewhere, Paris-based Carrefour surged 2.49%, extending earlier gains, after it reported a 9.8% increase in annual earnings.
On the downside, Adidas delined 0.74% after saying 2014 will be "significantly impacted" by currency effects and the sporting-goods maker reported fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 retreated 0.59%, still weighed by losses in Legal & General Group, down 2%, after the manager of U.K. pension assets raised its dividend 22% after saying cash flow and operating profit increased.
Meanwhile, financial stocks pushed broadly lower, as Lloyds Banking edged down 0.09% and Barclays dropped 0.70%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland lost 0.97% and HSBC Holdings tumbled 1.04%.
In the mining sector, stocks remained mixed. Vedanta Resources gained 0.73% and Randgold Resources rallied 2.85%, while Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton declined 0.64% and 1.76% respectively.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a steady open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.04% dip, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.05% slip, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.01% loss.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to produce the ADP report on private sector job creation, while the Institute for Supply Management was to publish a report service sector activity.
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