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European stocks retreated on Wednesday as investors awaited clues to whether the US Federal Reserve would seek to taper its economic stimulus soon.
London's FTSE 100 benchmark index slid 0.20 percent to 6,684.55 points in afternoon trading, as investors also digested news that Bank of England policymakers were united in maintaining monetary policy earlier this month.
Frankfurt's DAX 30 dipped 0.05 percent to 9,188.31 points and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 0.37 percent to 4,256.64 compared with Tuesday's closing levels.
European stocks perked up after US retail sales rose more than expected in October, climbing by 0.4 percent, despite the government shutdown during the first half of the month.
US stocks Wednesday opened higher on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average adding 0.11 percent to 15,984.78 points in the first five minutes of trade.
The broad-based S&P 500 tacked on 0.21 percent to 1,791.59, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.35 percent to 3,945.43.
Markets will pay close attention to minutes from the October meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) for signals after Fed chief Ben Bernanke indicated on Tuesday that the bank's stimulus programme would remain in place until the economy was back on track.
Bernanke gave no hint as to when the Fed would start reining in its $85 billion a month bond-buying scheme but said it was "committed to maintaining highly accommodative policies for as long as they are needed".
Global equities were boosted last week after Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen indicated she would keep the asset-buying quantitative easing (QE) stimulus in place.
"Given Janet Yellen has now made a firm commitment to sustain the flow of cheap money for some time yet, adding to Bernanke's comments in a similar vein, it seems clear that the US recovery is still finding its feet," said Patrick Latchford, head of trading group Monex Capital.
In foreign exchange activity on Wednesday, the European single currency eased to $1.3541 from $1.3535 late in New York on Tuesday.
The British pound rose to 1.1944 euros and $1.6174. The dollar dipped to 99.92 yen from 100.13 yen on Tuesday.
The ruble fell to a four-year low point against the euro to show a fall of more than 10.0 percent so far this year. The euro rose to 44.49 rubles, then eased slightly to 44.47 rubles. The Russian currency also fell to 32.84 to the dollar.
On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dropped to $1,271.50 an ounce from $1,275.75 on Tuesday.
French broadcaster toasts team's World Cup berth
Shares in French media-TV group TF1 surged on Wednesday after France's football team secured a place in next year's World Cup, an event which the company has paid dearly to broadcast.
The group's shares leapt by 8.0 percent in initial trade but then pulled back slightly to show a gain of 4.8 percent at 13.97 euros.
On the downside in Frankfurt, shares in Thyssenkrupp sank 2.0 percent to 19.01 euros, after the German heavy industry giant and national rail company Deutsche Bahn agreed an out-of-court settlement on a legal battle over rail-track price fixing.
Shares in Alcatel-Lucent fell 3.8 percent to 2.79 euros after the Wall Street Journal reported Nokia had examined but decided not to make an offer for the French-US company's Internet router business.
Asian markets mostly fell after the OECD cut its forecasts for global growth, citing the likely effect of any winding down in the Fed's stimulus policy.
Tokyo fell 0.33 percent, Sydney lost 0.84 percent and Seoul fell 0.71 percent, but Shanghai rose 0.62 percent and Hong Kong added 0.18 percent.
For investors in much of Asia, the focus was on the impact of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's growth forecast downgrades.
The OECD warned that uncertainty about the future of the Fed's QE scheme had caused global risk.
In cutting its outlook for global growth in 2013 and 2014, the Paris-based OECD said old worries "have been augmented by new concerns, most notably the possibility of significant financial instability in advanced and, especially, (emerging economies) during the exit from unconventional monetary policies in the United States".