Investing.com - European stocks were lower on Wednesday, as investors remained cautious ahead of a highly anticipated Italian government bond auction later in the day.
During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 dropped 0.33%, France's CAC 40 retreated 0.34%, while Germany's DAX 30 slipped 0.14%.
Markets were awaiting the outcome of an auction of three-year and 15-year Italian government bonds later Wednesday, in an important test of investor appetite for the country's debt, as concerns over ongoing political uncertainty lingered following last month's inconclusive elections.
Spain was to hold an auction of long-dated government bonds on Thursday after Madrid saw borrowing costs fall to their lowest level since April 2010 following an auction of six and 12-month bonds on Tuesday.
Financial stocks were broadly lower, as shares in French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale dropped 0.45% and 0.62%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank retreated 0.50% and 1.86% respectively.
Peripheral lenders added to losses, with Spanish banks BBVA and Banco Santander slipping 0.01% and 0.51%, while Italy's Unicredit edged down 0.10%.
Elsewhere, Inditex tumbled 3.43% after the company said net income rose 12% to EUR705 million in the three months through January, below analysts' estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 declined 0.63%, weighed by losses in the financial sector.
U.K. lenders tracked their European counterparts lower, as shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland eased 0.05% and Lloyds Banking retreated 0.73%, while HSBC Holdings and Barclays tumbled 0.79% and 0.91%.
Mining stocks were also on the downside, as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto plummeted 0.82% and 1.18%, while Eurasian Natural Resources declined 1.13%.
Copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys added to gains, sliding 0.66% and 2.02% respectively.
Meanwhile, Direct Line Insurance Group plunged 2.28% after the Royal Bank of Scotland announced plans to sell a GBP530 million stake in the U.K. home and motor insurer.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a moderately lower open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.09% fall, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.04% dip, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.08% loss.
Later in the day, the euro zone was to produce official data on industrial production, while the U.S. was to release government data on retail sales, as well as official data on import prices, business inventories and crude oil stockpiles.
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