European stock indices tread water after a strong performance so far this week with all eyes on U.S. inflation and jobless figures out later today. Christmas trading and fourth-quarter updates from retailers across the continent provoke mixed reactions. The Netherlands¿ Ahold, known in the U.S. for its Giant Food Stores and Stop & Shop chain, falls after sales figures miss forecasts amid a tough domestic market, while in the U.K. Home Retail Group and car-parts and bikes retailer Halfords gain ground.

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