European shares mainly rose Wednesday in quiet holiday-week trade, as investors digested Italy's successful bond auction before the New Year break but remained cautious over the eurozone debt crisis.
In late morning deals, London's FTSE 100 climbed 0.57 percent to 5,543.93 points, reopening after a four-day Christmas closure.
In Paris, the CAC 40 also won 0.57 percent to 3,120.77 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.02 percent to 5,891.11 points. Both markets had reopened for business on Tuesday.
Milan's FTSE Mib benchmark index meanwhile rallied by 0.92 percent to 15,064.53 points.
In foreign exchange deals, the European single currency firmed to $1.3071, from $1.3070 in New York late on Tuesday.
Italy paid sharply lower rates on Wednesday to raise 9.0 billion euros ($11.8 billion) in six-month bonds, with borrowing costs of 3.251 percent at half their level for the last similar operation in November.
The rate in November -- just after Mario Monti replaced Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister -- was 6.504 percent. Parliament has since adopted a plan of tough austerity measures intended to restore market confidence.
Despite news of the successful auction, analysts speculated that the European Central Bank (ECB) provided crucial support.
They also warned that the eurozone sovereign debt crisis would not be resolved any time soon.
"Europe is still centre stage as we move to 2012," Forex.com research director Kathleen Brooks told AFP.
"The success of today's auction suggests ECB intervention as it is hard to know who would want to buy Italian debt these days."
The bond auction was seen as a gauge of whether Rome's debt will be purchased by European banks after the ECB's massive cash infusion last week.
The yields on Italy's 10-year bonds have been sitting at the crucial seven percent level seen as unsustainable for governments to service their debts, but dropped to 6.732 percent following Wednesday's auction.
Italy has spooked international markets this year with its slow growth and a sharp rise on its borrowing costs raising fears of an imminent blow-up of its giant debt -- equivalent to 120 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Adding to investor concerns about a possible credit crunch in Europe was news that the region's banks deposited a record amount of overnight funds at the ECB, after receiving last week a record 489.2 billion euros from the ECB in low-intrest loans.
Banks put 452.03 billion euros on deposit for 24 hours at the European Central Bank on Wednesday, beating the previous record of 411.8 billion euros set the previous day, showing that banks continue to be reluctant to lend to each other on the interbank market.
"What the ECB did in terms of providing new liquidity is great as far as it goes -- but clearly it has done nothing to ease the visible concern of markets," said BGC Partners analyst Howard Wheeldon.
"The real worry now is that, as interbank trade remains non-existent, we go into 2012 facing a real threat to liquidity availability for banks -- and that will then feed through into the wider economy," he told AFP.
Worries over the eurozone crisis have roiled financial markets for most of 2011.
Europe's crisis has led to the fall of several governments this year, including in Italy, while markets have been hammered by concerns over a possible break-up of the eurozone and a new painful recession.
Asian equities mostly slipped as eurozone worries overshadowed a strong rise in consumer confidence in the United States.
Tokyo fell 0.20 percent, Sydney fell 1.25 percent and Seoul shed 0.92 percent. Hong Kong slipped 0.59 percent, while Shanghai finished the day 0.18 percent higher.
Dealers were given a positive cue from the United States.
The Conference Board reported a strong surge in consumer confidence this month, with its monthly index surging back to its levels of early 2011 after the collective mood soured deeply in the middle of the year.
However, Wall Street finished mixed overnight as the figures were offset by a drop in Sears shares. The retail chain announced it would close between 100 and 120 stores in an effort to save costs after a plunge in holiday sales.