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European stocks rally by the close despite US data sparking inflation fears

Sam Meredith

European stocks were near session highs at Wednesday's close, as investors shrugged off concerns surrounding U.S. inflation data and cheered on positive corporate news.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished up 1.07 percent provisionally, recovering from a sharp dip in afternoon trade. Turbulence in the region came after the much-anticipated release of the U.S. inflation data, which came in above expectations.

Sectors moved back into the black in late afternoon trade, with almost all industries closing above 1 percent, as U.S. markets posted slight gains around Europe's close.

On the bourses front, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed up 0.64 percent, while France's CAC 40 and Germany's DAX jumped 1.10 percent and 1.17 percent respectively. In peripheral markets, almost also indexes closed higher, with Italy's FTSE MIB soaring 1.81 percent.


H&M fails to impress

Media outpaced most sectors Wednesday, closing up 2 percent overall, with Rupert Murdoch's Sky among the top performers. Shares of the broadcaster rose 2 percent, after Sky announced that it had tightened its grip on live televised Premier League soccer matches.

Basic resources also rose over 2 percent, with miners lifted by a sharp uptick in gold, nickel, copper and zinc prices.

Looking at individual stocks, Credit Suisse reported a net loss of 983 million Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) for 2017 on Wednesday as U.S. tax write-downs resulted in a third consecutive annual loss . However, the latest figures from Switzerland's second-largest bank were slightly better than analysts had expected. Shares jumped 3.8 percent.

Coca-Cola HBC rose 4.8 percent, making it a top performer, after reporting full-year sales and profits that came in above market estimates.

France's Credit Agricole posted a 33 percent jump in profits for the final three months of 2017, as its investment banking unit outperformed in challenging market conditions. Its shares slipped almost 3 percent by the close.

Swedish retailer H&M sank over 4 percent after the company reported that e-commerce sales were expected to rise by at least 25 percent in 2018, but sales in stores were likely to fall, before bouncing back in 2019.


US inflation beats expectations

Markets remained on edge during Wednesday's session, with investors clearly scarred by last week's frenzied U.S.-led market sell-off. In Asia, stocks finished the day relatively mixed as investors remained anxious over the U.S. inflation report due.

When the CPI data was released before Wall Street's open, U.S. markets — in both pre-market and early trade — tanked after consumer prices rose more than expected in January, sparking fears over inflation. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent last month against forecasts of a 0.3 percent rise. Headline CPI on an annualized basis also was above market expectations . The data weighed on sentiment, causing the STOXX 600 to briefly go negative, before recovering lost ground.

The euro area's economy maintained a healthy growth pace at the end of 2017, paving the way for another robust performance in 2018. Gross domestic product ( GDP ) increased 0.6 percent from the previous three months, Eurostat reported Wednesday.

—CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report