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European Shares Lackluster As Trade-war Worries Weigh


European stocks were flat to slightly lower on Wednesday after White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, an advocate for free trade, resigned from the Trump administration, raising concerns that Trump will go ahead with his plan to impose tariffs and risk a trade war.

Renewed worries about the potential impact of a trade war overshadowed easing geopolitical concerns after North Korea said it is willing to talk about denuclearization.

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.2 percent at 370.61 in late opening deals after closing 0.1 percent higher the previous day.

The German DAX was also down 0.2 percent and France's CAC 40 index was declining 0.3 percent while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 was little changed.

Deutsche Post shares fell over 1 percent. The German mail and logistics group reported lower net profit for the fourth quarter due to a higher tax rate.

Publicis Groupe declined 2 percent and WPP dropped 1.4 percent after reports that Procter & Gamble is accelerating its efforts to transform the business of marketing.

Italian telecom giant Telecom Italia was trading on a flat note after recovering from earlier losses. The company said that its board authorized Chief Executive Officer Amos Genish to spin off its fixed access network.

Paper packaging firm Smurfit Kappa rallied 3.5 percent. The company's board reaffirmed its rejection of a takeover offer from U.S. rival International Paper.

Rolls Royce Holdings jumped more than 12 percent after the plane engine maker reported 2017 profit before tax of 4.9 billion pounds, a material increase over the 2016 loss of 4.6 billion pounds.

On the data front, France's foreign trade gap widened notably at the start of the year, as exports fell and imports rose, data from customs office showed.

The trade deficit widened to 5.6 billion euros in January from 3.4 billion euros in December. The expected shortfall was 4.45 billion euros.

Separately, U.K. house prices grew at the slowest pace in five years in February, data from the Lloyds bank subsidiary Halifax and IHS Markit showed.

House prices increased 1.8 percent year-on-year in three months to February, slower than the 2.2 percent rise registered in January. This was the weakest rate since March 2013.

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