European benchmarks were mixed at the close Wednesday after investors were dealt with the task of responding to the latest raft of corporate earnings reports while, at the same time, being mindful of the looming Fed interest rate decision from the U.S., which is due after the close.

The FTSE 100 fell by 0.21% in London to close at 7,234 while its mid-market sibling dropped 0.62% to 19,683.

In Frankfurt the DAX rose by 0.16% to close at 12,527 while the CAC 40 index slipped 0.10% in Paris to close at 5,301.

Markets in southern Europe were a relative picture of health with both the IBEX in Madrid and the FTSE MIB in Milan closing in positive territory for the session.

In individual stocks, the British grocery retailing sector took a hammering Wednesday after J Sainsbury (JSAIY) , the third largest retailer, delivered shareholders their third successive annual dividend cut.

It also told shareholders that pre-tax profits fell nearly 10% during the year to March 11 and warned that investors could be waiting for some time before earnings across the industry recover to historically normal levels.

The report came at the tail end of three-year period which has seen insurgent discounters, mainly from Germany, setting up shop across the country and forcing incumbents to lower prices across the board.

Accordingly, Sainsbury shares dropped by more than 5% while grocery stores in general were among the biggest fallers, with sector leader Tesco (TSCDY) sliding more than 3.5%.

On the FTSE 250, house builder and construction firm Galliford Try (GALLF) issued a profit warning, saying that it expects a one-off charge of £98 million ($125 million) for the year following a review of the likely expense required for it to deliver on two joint venture contracts in its construction division. The shares were down 10% by the close. 

Volkswagen (VLKAY) , BMW (BMWYY) and Daimler (DDAIF) were all found swishing around near the bottom of the DAX in Frankfurt Wednesday after growth in U.S. vehicle sales slowed during April, according to data released late Wednesday, with the annualized number coming in lower than was expected.

Volkswagen also reported first-quarter earnings during the session. Revenue and operating profit figures were pre-released in April so the beat on the top line was already in the price, while earnings per share came in lower than was expected.

In a similar vein, Peugeot (PEUGF) was the top faller on the CAC 40 in Paris, with a loss of more than 2%, although steelmaker ArcelorMittal (MT) - Get Report and auto components manufacturer Valeo (VLEEY) both saw noteworthy losses as well.

Quite apart from the sour sentiment toward the automotive sector Wednesday, Valeo shares may have been propelled into ceding ground during the session after rising by more than 10% during the latter half of April in response to a strong set of results and bullishness among investors over the outlook for the stock.

ArcelorMittal was a victim of weaker commodity prices, with metals falling for their third straight session, while the company also published its own analyst consensus for first-quarter earnings, which could have helped to nudge the shares lower.