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European stocks remain higher, focus on central banks; Dax up 0.98%

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Shutterstock photo - European stocks remained higher on Wednesday, as expectations for additional easing measures by world central banks boosted market sentiment, although investors remained cautious ahead of this week's European Central Bank policy meeting.

During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 climbed 0.43%, France's CAC 40 added 0.17%, while Germany's DAX 30 jumped 0.98%.

Market sentiment remained supported by prospects for ongoing monetary easing by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan, as well as signs that the economic recovery in the U.S. is gaining momentum.

But investors remained cautious ahead of meetings by the ECB and the Bank of England on Thursday and U.S. data on nonfarm payrolls on Friday.

Concerns over political uncertainty in Italy also continued to linger, amid reports that Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is considering appointing a technocratic government after elections last month ended in a stalemate.

Financial stocks turned broadly higher, as shares in French lenders Societe Generale and BNP Paribas added 0.15% and 0.20%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank climbed 0.67% and 0.78%.

Peripheral lenders added to gains, with Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit jumping 1.20% and 1.30%, while Spain's Banco Santander BBVA climbed 0.68%.

On the upside, Henkel rallied 2.67% after the German company reported a 4% increase in like-for-like revenue for the fourth-quarter, topping analysts' estimates.

In London, FTSE 100 rose 0.30%, after data showed that house prices in the U.K. rose more-than-expected in February.

Vodafone extended earlier gains, soaring 7.22%, after Bloomberg reported that the U.K. mobile phone operator and U.S. rival Verizon discussed as recently as December a full combination of options involving their relationship.

Car insurance company Admiral Group was also sharply higher, with shares rallying 3.91%, after reporting a profit before tax of GBP345 million for 2012, up 15% from 2011.

Elsewhere, financial stocks remained mixed. HSBC Holdings edged up 0.14% and the Royal Bank of Scotland climbed 0.41%, while Lloyds Banking and Barclays retreated 0.46% and 0.59% respectively.

Mining stocks were also on the downside, with shares in BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto tumbling 1.09% and 1.81%, while copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys slid 0.79% and 2.88%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.32% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.34% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.15% gain.

Also Wednesday, Eurostat said that the euro zone's gross domestic product shrank 0.6% in the September-to-December period, in line with expectations and unchanged from a preliminary estimate.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish a report on ADP nonfarm payrolls and official data on factory orders. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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