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European stocks mixed after Cameron EU speech

European stock markets closed with mixed results on Wednesday after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans for a referendum on his country's future within the European Union (EU), and official data revealed a deepening of Spain's recession.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies added 0.30 percent to 6,197.64 points and Frankfurt's DAX 30 gained 0.15 percent to 7,704.54 points, but in Paris the CAC 40 shed 0.40 percent to 3,726.17 points.

Madrid's IBEX 35 fell by 0.22 percent to 8,613.3 points.

In foreign exchange trades, the European single currency dipped to $1.3297 from $1.3321 late on Tuesday in New York. Sterling climbed against the euro after the release of upbeat British unemployment figures, dealers said.

On the London Bullion Market, gold prices nudged lower to $1,690.25 an ounce from $1,690.50.

"Europes markets have shrugged off the political noise from this mornings speech by David Cameron on an in-out referendum on EU membership," commented Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Cameron promised to give the British people the choice of staying in or leaving the EU if his party wins the next general election.

Cameron said he wanted to first renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership because "public disillusionment with the EU is at an all-time high."

The British leader said that the EU was grappling with the eurozone, "a crisis of European competitiveness" and the gap between the EU and its citizens had "grown dramatically in recent years."

He added: "If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit."

The Bank of Spain said meanwhile that Spain's economy took its steepest dive in more than three years in the final quarter of 2012 as high unemployment and biting austerity measures slashed demand.

Available data pointed to gross domestic product plunging by 0.6 percent on a quarterly basis in the final three months of last year for the indebted eurozone country, after a 0.3-percent dip the previous quarter, it said.

That marked the sharpest quarterly fall of Spanish economic output since the second quarter of 2009 when the country, which has the eurozone's fourth-biggest economy, was reeling from a massive property crash.

"European investors are currently holding back from building risk, in wait for more corporate earnings and US lawmakers kicking the can down the road by voting on a three-month extension on raising the debt ceiling," said Ishaq Siddiqi, market strategist at ETX Capital trading group.

-- Unilever rises, Siemens slumps --


On the corporate front, shares in Unilever jumped 3.1 percent to 2,526 pence after the Anglo-Dutch food and cosmetics giant reported annual net profits up 5.0 percent to 4.48 billion euros.

In Frankfurt, Siemens ended the day flat at 83.13 euros, having spent most of the day down, after the German engineering giant said earnings and orders fell in the first quarter, but it was hoping a shake-up of its businesses would enable it to meet full-year targets.

BHP Billiton grew 1.4 percent to 2,110 pence after the global mining giant said its iron ore production in resource-rich Western Australia saw another record in the six months to December, while petroleum output was on track.

Asian stock markets mostly closed lower on Wednesday, with Tokyo extending the previous day's fall as the yen strengthened following a Bank of Japan monetary policy shift, traders said.

The Nikkei slumped 2.08 percent to 10,486.99 points after the central bank on Tuesday said it would fall into line with the new government and set a two-percent inflation target, while also launching an unlimited asset-buying scheme from next year.

The bank also lifted its growth forecast, predicting gross domestic product would expand 2.3 percent in the year ended March 2014, up from an earlier 1.6 percent estimate.

US stocks traded mixed despite solid earnings reports from leading technology companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.34 percent to 13,759.14 points, while the broad-based S&P 500 nudged down 0.03 percent to 1,492.10 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 0.26 percent to 3,151.38 points.

The action came after technology companies IBM and Google reported solid earning results Tuesday after the market closed. Apple is slated to report earnings after the closing bell.