The broad-based major European indices closed mixed in Wednesday's trading session, as investors favored automotive stocks, and sold off bank equities.
In economic news, the number of employed increased 0.3% in the euro area (EA19), and 0.2% in the EU28 in Q4 of 2017, compared with the previous quarter, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In Q3 of 2017, employment increased by 0.4% in the euro area and by 0.2% in the EU28.
Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, employment increased by 1.6% in the euro area and by 1.5% in the EU28 in Q4 of 2017. Eurostat estimates that, in Q4 of 2017, 236.8 million men and women were employed in the EU28, of which 156.7 million were in the euro area, which is the highest level ever recorded in both areas. Over the whole year 2017, employment rose by 1.6% in both areas, compared with increases of 1.3% in the euro area and 1.2% in the EU28 in 2016.
Malta (+1.8%), Estonia (+1.6%), Finland (+1.2%), Luxembourg (+1.1%) and Latvia (+0.9%) recorded the highest increases from the previous quarter, while decreases were reported in Italy, Poland (both -0.3%), Greece and Lithuania (both -0.1%), while employment remained unchanged in the Czech Republic.
Eurostat also reported that seasonally adjusted industrial production fell 1.0% in the euro area (EA19) and 0.7% in the EU28 in January, compared with the previous month. In December 2017, industrial production rose 0.4% in the euro area, and 0.3% in the EU28. Compared with January 2017, industrial production increased 2.7% in the euro area, and 3.0% in the EU28.
The largest monthly decreases in industrial production were registered in the Netherlands (-5.7%), Romania (-2.9%) and Spain (-2.5%), while the highest increases were in Portugal (+2.5%), Estonia (+1.9%) and Denmark (+1.8%). The highest annual increases in industrial production were registered in Romania (+8.5%), Estonia (+7.7%) and Sweden (+7.1%), and the largest decreases were in the Netherlands (-6.6%), Malta (-1.7%) and Greece (-1.6%).
In Germany, consumer prices were 1.4% higher in February than in the same month last year, according to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), as the inflation rate decreased for the third consecutive month, after having been 1.6% in January. Compared with January, the consumer price index rose 0.5% in February.
Destatis also reported that in 2017, German local courts reported 20,093 business insolvencies, a decline of 6.6% compared with 2016. The number of business insolvencies reached the lowest level since 1999. An increase in the number of business insolvencies was last recorded in the crisis year of 2009.
And in France, the number of businesses created in February for all enterprises rose 0.5%, after climbing 2.7% in January on a seasonal and working-day adjusted basis, according to the Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies.
In equities, WM Morrison Supermarkets helped nudge the FTSE into negative territory, falling 4.9%, followed by oil company BP, and insurance firm Old Mutual, which lost 2% and 1.9% respectively. Private health care provider Mediclinic International and home improvement retailer Kingfisher each closed 1.8% lower; bank Standard Chartered was off 1.7%, while Barclays, and HSBC each dropped 1.1%.
In Frankfurt, footwear and apparel retailer Adidas led the DAX higher, surging 11.2%, followed by natural gas and electricity supplier RWE, which climbed 4.4%. Automaker Volkswagen rose 1.4%, while industrial group Thyssenkrupp closed 1% higher. Real estate company Vonovia increased 0.6%, while airline operator Lufthansa, and media company ProSiebenSat1 Media each moved up 0.5%.
In Paris, banks weighed down the CAC as BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, and Credit Agricole fell 1.5%, 1.3%, and 1.1% respectively. Chemical company Solvay, and media company Vivendi each closed 1.3% lower, while aerospace and defense firm Safran was off 0.9%.
The FTSE lost 0.09%, the DAX gained 0.14%, and the CAC-40 dropped 0.18%.