European stocks decelerated on Wednesday, bringing to a halt two days of gains, following a subdued day in China after trade data showed a steep decline in exports.
But in the U.K. April industrial output and manufacturing data came in far better than expected, with the gauges rising 2% and 2.3% on March figures respectively, countering expectations of stagnation. Meanwhile in Frankfurt the European Central Bank embarked on a program of corporate bond buying.
Oil continued its recovery, with West Texas intermediate recently up 0.34% at $50.53 a barrel.
The FTSE 100 in London was recently down 0.09% at 6,278.96. In Frankfurt, the Dax was recently down 0.56% at 10,230.13 and in Paris the Cac 40 was down 0.54% at 4,451.88.
Coca-Cola HBC, mining stocks and Shell bucked the negative trend in London. Shell was up 1.6% after Barclays called the stock "materially undervalued." It has an overweight rating on the stock and a price target of 2,450 pence. Shell was recently at 1,784 pence. It posted strong gains on Tuesday after lifting its cost-saving targets.
In the course of the morning investors changed their mind about what better-than-expected first-quarter data from grocer Sainsbury meant for the company and the stock was recently more than 1% lower, reversing early gains. Its first-quarter same-store sales decline of 0.8% came in better than the 1.7% decrease expected, according to a Bloomberg poll. Same-store sales had inched up 0.1% in the fourth quarter. But Jefferies analysts warned that although the stock looks cheap - on a forward price/earnings ratio of 10.2- the "valuation attractions need to be viewed with suitable caution."
Larger rival Tesco (TSCDY) was recently up about 1%. Sky News reported that it is likely to announce the sale of its Kipa chain in Turkey and Giraffe restaurants in the U.K. later on Wednesday.
In Frankfurt, leading utilities E.ON (EONGY) and RWE (RWEOY) were both up close to 3%. E.ON shareholders meet today to vote on its plan to split into two. E.ON wants to put its conventional power generation operations and other assets into a new company, Uniper, and to focus on renewables.
Chinese trade data was mixed in May with exports falling at a faster pace than expected but imports countering expectations of a steep decline.
Official figures showed exports fell 4.1%, against expectations for a 3.6% decline, while imports edged 0.4% lower, well under the 6.0% decline expected and the smallest decrease since imports began to shrink 18 months ago.
All but one Chinese stock index closed down, though indices pared initial losses. The CSI 300 composite closed 0.41% lower at 3,163.99.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed down 0.20% at 21,284.64.
In Japan, revised figures showed the economy grew 1.9% in the first quarter, above the previously released figure of 1.7%.
The Nikkei 225 closed up 0.93% at 16,830.92, having initially falling as investors betted that the brighter picture lengthened the odds of further stimuli.
The Topix gained 0.76% to close at 1,350.97.
On the New Zealand Stock Exchange shares in Sky Network were suspended after the company said it is in discussions with the U.K.'s Vodafone (VOD) about a possible merger of Sky and Vodafone's New Zealand business.