- BoE releases meeting minutes
- UK jobless rates falls
- Eurozone debt declines
- Syrian peace talks begin
FTSE 100: -0.12%
CAC 40: 0.03%
FTSE MIB: -0.19%
IBEX 35: -0.75%
Stoxx 600: 0.09%
European stocks were little changed as investors weighed the release of the Bank of England's (BoE) meeting minutes and UK employment data.
Minutes from the central bank's January 8-9th meeting showed policymakers saw no need to raise interest rates if the jobless rate reaches its 7% threshold.
The BoE's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has vowed to keep its benchmark rate at the record low of 0.5% at least until unemployment drops to 7% under its forward guidance.
However, the Bank is likely to feel pressure to change its guidance after data today showed unemployment fell to 7.1% in the three months to November from 7.4% the previous quarter, well under the consensus forecast of 7.3%.
"Such a dramatic drop in unemployment leaves the BoE in a pickle - unemployment is now just 0.1pp above its 7% threshold," according to UniCredit.
"The MPC would not have known today's labour market report at the time of its 8-9th January meeting, but it was already playing catch-up with the previous fall in the unemployment rate. As such we expected the minutes to be 'dovish' in an attempt to talk rates down - but surprising the MPC chose not to do this."
Eurozone debt, Syria talks
The Eurozone's debt in relation to gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of the third quarter stood lower than in the previous quarter, according to Eurostat data published on Wednesday.
The Eurozone's government debt to GDP ratio dropped to 92.7%, compared to the 93.4% registered in the prior quarter. Eurostat said it was the "first decrease in absolute terms for the euro area since the fourth quarter of 2007".
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) kicked off Syria peace talks with heated debates today in Geneva.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem insisted President Bashar al-Assad would not kneel to outside pressure after Opposition leader Ahmed accused the ruling government of Nazi-style war crimes.
UN Security-General Ban Ki-moon opened the proceedings by urging immediate access to humanitarian aid for areas under siege.
The talks come amid violence in Syria and claims that the country's military killed civilians using chemical weapons near Damascus in August last year.
Peugeot Citroen, Sage
PSA Peugeot Citroen was up after a union leader said the carmaker may cut a further 1,500 jobs in France as part of a restructuring plan.
Sage Group advanced after the software-publishing company said it expects to meet its target of 6% revenue growth in 2015.
Rautaruukki Oyj surged after SSAB AB announced plans to buy the Finnish steelmaker.
Allianz edged lower after Mohamed El-Erian resigned as Chief Executive and Chief Investment Officer of the German insurer's Pacific Investment Management Co. unit.
Lanxess declined as JPMorgan cut its 12-month price estimate on the maker of speciality chemicals to €28 from €37 and reiterated an 'underweight' rating.
ABB Ltd. slumped after the power and automation technology company said charges from project delays and operational issues will hurt profit.
The euro fell 0.04% to $1.3556.
Brent crude futures rose $1.038 to $107.850 per barrel, according to the ICE.