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European Stocks Close Mostly Lower

European stocks closed mostly lower on Wednesday as investors largely made cautious moves amid concerns about a surge in coronavirus cases in several countries and a somewhat slow pace of vaccination in parts of the continent.

Investors were reacting to the latest batch of economic data from the euro area, and looking ahead to the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting.

The pan European Stoxx 600 slid 0.22%. Germany's DAX ended 0.24% down, France's CAC 40 edged down by 0.01% and Switzerland's SMI shed 0.49%, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 advanced 0.91%.

Among other markets in Europe, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Turkey closed weak.

Austria and Sweden edged down marginally, while Finland, Greece, Iceland, Portugal and Russia ended higher.

In the UK market, Just Eat Takeaway rallied more than 5%. Smith DS, Informa, Pershing Square Holdings, Persimmon, BT Group, Smurfit Kappa Group, M&G, Land Securities, Bunzl, Aveva Group, Legal & General, CRH, BHP Group, Rio Tinto and BP gained 1.8 to 3%.

On the other hand, Flutter Entertainment, Renishaw, Weir Group and Avast ended on a weak note.

AstraZeneca shares drifted lower after the University of Oxford announced that it is halting the trial of the Covid vaccine developed by the company on children and teenagers. The European Medicines Agency reportedly said there is a possible link between AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who received the shot.

In the French market, Accor, ArcelorMittal, Hermes International, Renault, Essilor and Technip declined sharply, while Air France-KLM, Atos, Unibail Rodamco, WorldLine and Danone rose sharply.

Societe Generale ended flat. The bank said it has entered into talks with asset manager Amundi with a view to disposing of the asset management activities operated by Lyxor.

In Germany, Volkswagen declined more than 2%. Adidas, Covestro, Thyssenkrupp and Merck also ended notably lower.

On the other hand, Lufthansa, Beiersdorf, Deutsche Wohnen, Munich RE, Deutsche Bank and Henkel gained 1 to 3%.

In economic news, Eurozone private sector returned to growth in March underpinned by a record increase in manufacturing output, final survey data from IHS Markit showed. The data said the final composite output index rose to 53.2 in March from 48.8 in February. The score was also above the flash estimate of 52.5.

The second-fastest increase in private sector output in two-and-a-half years was driven by a surge in manufacturing production, the strongest in nearly 24 years of data collection.

Meanwhile, services output fell again but at the slowest rate in the current seven-month sequence of contraction. The final services Purchasing Managers' Index came in at 49.6, up from 45.7 a month ago. The flash reading was 48.8.

Final data from IHS Markit showed the UK service sector logged a strong rebound in March as activity, new orders and employment picked up from February.

The services Purchasing Managers' Index advanced to 56.3 from 49.5 in February. The flash reading was 56.8.

The score was above the 50.0 no-change level for the first time since October 2020. The latest reading also signaled the fastest rate of output expansion for seven months.

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