Markets were cautious on the eve of a board meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB) and a monetary policy decision expected on Thursday, with some edging upward and others losing ground.
Milan joined London and Frankfurt in rising modestly on Wednesday. Milan's FTSE MIB gained 0.25% to close at 15,535 points. London's FTSE-100 index performed best among the European stock exchanges, closing up 0.28% at 5,825.81 points. Frankfurt's DAX index rose 0.22%.
Madrid's IBEX index lost 0.51% as Spain appears to be preparing to ask for a European bailout, although Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy said Monday that a such a request was not imminent, and is said to be worried about what conditions would be attached. On Wednesday, however, Spanish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos outlined the pillars of a banking rescue plan to Spanish parliament. He said private investors will be majority stakeholders in a "bad bank" that will take on toxic loans from Spanish banks.
Details on how the banks are to be capitalized are forthcoming over the next few days, and the European Commission is expected to approve the process in November, the minister explained. The first 30 billion euros in EU bailout money are already available, and recently nationalized banks can help themselves as soon as they submit their restructuring plans, De Guindos said.
Germany will not oppose a Spanish application for eurozone financial rescue involving bondbuying by the ECB, German Economy and Technology Minister Philipp Roesler said in Madrid on Wednesday, where he met with a Spanish counterpart. Many investors and analysts believe that a bailout of recession-riddled Spain is essential to resolving the European debt crisis.
Athens' General Index lost 0.44% as the troika - EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund - continued difficult negotiations with the Greek government over new reforms and austerity measures. The Paris bourse also ceded ground, with the CAC 40 index sinking 0.24%.
The difference between interest rates on Italian and German bonds closed nearly stable at 359 basis points, up just two points over Tuesday's close. The yield on Italian 10-year bonds was 5.04%.
The spread between Spanish bonds and the German benchmark closed at 436 basis points. The yield on Spanish 10-year bonds was 5.81%.