European benchmarks fell across the board on Wednesday as bank, energy and industrial stocks turned red on weakening commodity prices and resurgent concerns over European politics.
Markets have renewed their focus on European politics this week after French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen put forward her manifesto, which included more details on her plan to abandon the euro.
Further talk of abandoning the euro and the close proximity of the French election, which gets underway in late April, sent bond yields sharply lower on Wednesday and checked the majority of equity markets.
French 10-year yields fell nearly 10 basis points to 1.02% while in Germany, bund yields were 5 basis points lower at 0.30%. In the U.K. 10-year gilt yields were down 6 basis points to 1.22% and in Italy, ten year yields fell 10 basis points to 2.24%. Spanish 10-years dropped 8 basis points to 1.68%.
But, in a rare piece of good news on the day, London's mid-cap FTSE 250 index set a new record high as investors reacted to more corporate earnings from Britain's mid-market companies.
The FTSE 250 eventually closed 0.25% higher at 18,606, although it touched an intraday record of 18,665 earlier during the session before paring gains.
This is while the FTSE 100 also closed in positive territory, up 0.04%, at 7,188. In Germany, the DAX was down 0.05% at 11,543 while in Paris, the CAC gained 0.26% to 4,766. In Italy the FTSE MIB was up for the session although the IBEX in Spain was down.
In individual stocks, media and events outfit Ascential saw its stock rise by more than 5% for the second day running -- following the acquisition of U.S. based media advisory firm MediaLink.
Cyber security firm, Sophos Group (SPHHF) , was also among the top gainers; it, too, announced an acquisition. On Wednesday Sophos reported a solid third quarter and said that it has agreed to buy U.S. cyber security firm Invincia for $100 million and a $20 million earnout.
On the FTSE 100 outsourcing firm Capita (CTAGF) was among the top risers, up more than 3%, as the stock continued to recover from last week's scandal.
It was reported in the tabloid press last Friday that some of the company's staff members had accepted bribes from criminals in order to fit 'ankle bracelet' electronic tags with a loose enough fit so that they could be taken on and off with ease.
House builders such as Persimmon (PSMMF) and Barratt Developments (BTDPF) also rose to the top of the index, in tandem with a fall in fixed-income yields and ahead of house price and construction output data due for release over the remainder of the week.
In France, construction firm Vinci (VCISF) topped the board with a gain of 4.6% after it reported a solid set of full-year results and sounded an upbeat tone on the outlook for 2016. But gains for the CAC index were tempered by losses at banking sector stalwarts Societe Generale (SCGLY) and Credit Agricole (CRARY) .
In Germany, the DAX index was weighed by losses for the banking sector, with Deutsche Bank (DB) - Get Deutsche Bank AG Report dropping 2% and Commerzbank (CRZBY) falling 1.75% ahead of its fourth-quarter results release set for Thursday morning.