Stock traders work at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
London - AFP
Europe's main stock markets pushed upwards, helped by further speculation on central bank action, or delay in rate hikes, to support global economic growth.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index rose 0.25 percent to 6,388.57 points in afternoon trading, but with sterling under pressure, after minutes from the latest Bank of England meeting showed no rush to raise interest rates.
The CAC 40 in Paris climbed 0.48 percent to 4,100.88 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 rose 0.50 percent to 8,931.82 compared with Tuesday's closing level.
Madrid gained 0.42 percent and Milan added 0.41 percent.
"While the general tone in the markets has been more positive this week, investors remain on edge particularly when it comes to the eurozone," said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari trading group.
European stocks had shot higher on Tuesday after Chinese economic growth data boosted optimism over the global economic outlook. They were lifted also by rumours that the European Central Bank could step up its monetary stimulus, dealers said.The idea, reportedly under discussion at the ECB but not yet decided on, comes as the central bank struggles to combat deflation pressures and shore up growth in the 18-nation eurozone.
A member of the ECB's decision-making governing council, Belgium National Bank chief Luc Coene, said on Wednesday that several of his colleagues had mentioned the idea of buying corporate bonds but that it had yet to be seriously discussed.
"Investors remain hooked on declarations or rumours swirling around the central banks," noted Franklin Pichard, director of Barclays Bourse in Paris.
Possible action of the ECB would have what it takes "to restore a semblance of optimism in an uncertain world," he added.
Last week, stock markets had been rocked by near panic as traders worried that the eurozone could return to recession.
In trading on Wednesday, shares in British American Tobacco shed 3.8 percent to 3,336 pence, topping the FTSE 100 losers board, after the maker of Lucky Strike and Dunhill cigarettes reported a sizeable drop in sales.Total shares fell sharply in early trade, but then recovered to a loss of 0.37 percent at 44.26 euros after the French oil group had named Patrick Pouyanne, currently head of refining and chemicals, as its new chief executive while former CEO Thierry Desmarest had been appointed chairman.
The nominations at an emergency meeting of the Total board of directors came after chief executive Christophe de Margerie died in a plane crash in Moscow on Monday.
Shares in French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen were up 1.6 percent, down from early gains, to 9.52 euros after the group raised slightly its expectations for growth of its main European overall market.
Overall the quarterly results were lacklustre, with a jump in sales in China and by car parts unit Faurecia counterbalanced by sales falls in several other markets.
- Euro slides -
The euro fell to $1.2671 from $1.2714 late in New York on Tuesday as it continued to feel pressure from the possibilitity of stepped up ECB stimulus action.
The European single currency gained to 78.99 British pence from 78.90 pence. The pound was worth $1.6042, down from $1.6113 on Tuesday.
On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dropped to $1,246.75 an ounce from $1,250.25.
The pound struggled as markets concluded that the Bank of England was in no rush to start hiking its main interest rate.
Bank of England policymakers voted 7-2 in favour of keeping its key lending rate at 0.50 percent at its October meeting, repeating the voting pattern over the previous two months, minutes released on Wednesday showed.
Wall Street opened flat on Wednesday despite solid earnings from Boeing and Yahoo as US equity markets paused after three days of gains.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.07 percent to 16,602.45 points, while the broad-based S&P 500 added 0.06 percent to 1,942.52, and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.04 percent to 4,421.42.
Asian markets mostly pushed higher Wednesday, following gains in New York and Europe the previous day.
Tokyo jumped 2.64 percent, Sydney added 1.14 percent, and Hong Kong tacked on 1.37 percent.
But Shanghai fell 0.56 percent.
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were closed for public holidays.