LONDON ( The Deal) -- U.K. unemployment was down to 6.8% for the first three months of the year. That's a five-year low, but there's still slack in the economy and inflation hasn't taken off, according to the Bank of England. The Bank's governor, Mark Carney, hinted Wednesday that the first interest rate rises might come within a year but won't head up to pre-crisis levels for some time thereafter.
Meanwhile, over in the eurozone, industrial production in March fell 0.3% from the previous month, according to a release from the European statistical agency on Wednesday. Worse, industrial production actually shrank 0.1% compared with March 2013, when economists had been expecting significant growth. Economic output for the eurozone was up 0.2% in February, while for the 28-nations of the European Union as a whole, it was just 0.3%.
With so much indifferent economic news to digest, European markets have been relatively subdued Wednesday. London and Paris were trading a little below Tuesday's closing levels. London's FTSE 100 was down 0.04% at 6,870 and in Paris the CAC 40 was down 0.15% at 4,498. In Frankfurt, the DAX was down 0.08% at 9,747 toward midday, despite moving into positive territory at times during the morning.
In London, the biggest riser was contract caterer Compass Group, which was up over 4% at 1,020 pence after announcing a 5.5% increase in operating profits and a special dividend. But commercial broadcaster ITV pwas the biggest faller, down 5.13% to 181.20 pence. It reported increased advertising earnings, but its forecast for ad sales in the second quarter came in slightly below expectations.
Pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK - Get Report)was flat, despite Chinese authorities accusing three of its executives of bribery. The Chinese probe, which was first announced last July, has dented the firm's sales in the country. Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking Group (LYG - Get Report) was up 1.7% at 77.02 pence after European regulators gave a green light for its demerger and planned IPO of over 600 branches under the TSB brand.
In Germany, power company RWE posted a 15.5% drop in core earnings, the second of the German utility giants to record a big fall this week. Their conventional energy margins have been hit as Germany continues its shift to renewable energy sources. RWE was down 1.67% at 27.15 euros.
Tokyo closed down 0.14% at 14,405.76 while Hong Kong finished up 1.03% at 22,582.77.