European Stocks Trade Mixed After U.K. Jobless Data

Dow Jones Newswires

European stock markets traded mixed on Wednesday, with the benchmark index moving lower, while U.K. stocks rose after worse-than-expected unemployment figures eased pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.1% to 334.24, after closing almost flat on Tuesday.

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Among notable movers in the benchmark, shares of Peugeot SA gained 4.8% after the French car maker said it narrowed its loss in 2013 and confirmed a wide-reaching capital-increase plan.

Credit Agricole SA also rose in Paris, up 1.9%, after the bank said it swung back to a profit in the fourth quarter.

Swatch Group AG climbed 0.4% after Barclays lifted the luxury-watch maker to overweight from equal weight. The analysts said they believe "the watches and jewelry segment will be the best-performing luxury category this year."

"This has been highlighted by the recent robust underlying performance from Swatch and Richemont and, unlike the leather goods operators, they should benefit from a gross margin boost," they said.

More broadly, investors focused on U.K. data showing the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 7.2% in the three months to December. Analysts expected the rate to remain at November's 7.1% or drop to 7%.

The labor market has been a major focus point in the U.K. after the Bank of England in August said it would discuss raising rates when the unemployment level dropped to a threshold of 7%. However, after a fast-than-expected drop in the jobless rate, the BOE last week revamped its forward guidance and said it will now consider a broader range of economic indicators before hiking interest rates.

Minutes from the BOE's February policy-setting meeting were also out Wednesday morning and showed the committee members voted unanimously to keep rates low and make no changes to the bond-buying program.

The FTSE 100 index traded 0.1% higher at 6,801.11 after the reports.

Germany's DAX 30 index fell 0.2% to 9,641.76 and France's CAC 40 index lost 0.1% to 4,328.84.

In the U.S., minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting are due after the European markets close. U.S. stock futures pointed to mostly lower on Wall Street.