Europe close: Stocks little changed as authorities debate easing social distancing measures
Stocks finished the Wednesday on a mixed note amid warnings from the World Health Organisation against unwinding quarantine or social-distancing measures prematurely, even as estimates of the likely huge economic toll of the pandemic continue to roll in.
"To think that we're close to an endpoint would be dangerous," said Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe.
Another top WHO official, Bruce Aylward, meanwhile stressed the need for testing in order to eradicate the Covid-19 virus.
"It's not lifting lockdowns and going back to normal. It's a new normal."
By the end of trading, the benchmark Stoxx 600 was up 0.02% at 326.67, alongside a fall of 0.23% for the German Dax to 10,332.89 while the FTSE Mibtel dipped 0.18% to 17,380.82.
France's Cac-40 ended 0.10% higher at 4,442.75 and Spain's Ibex 35 fell 0.72% to 6,951.8.
Front dated Brent crude oil added 0.47% to $32.02 per barrel on the ICE.
Also weighing on sentiment, euro area finance ministers were unable to reach an agreement on an economic relief package for the bloc, although German finance minister, Olaf Scholz, was hopeful that an agreement could be reached before Easter.
And overnight, shares on Wall Street dipped on the back of a downdraft in oil prices as investors hedged their bets ahead of a meeting of OPEC+ energy ministers scheduled for the next day.
Underlining the difficult economic situation that Europe was facing, France's central bank estimated that the country's economy shrank by 6% during the first three months of 2020.
That estimate came alongside a projection from Germany's six main economic research institutes for a 4.2% drop in gross domestic product in 2020, albeit followed by 5.8% rebound in 2021.
German GDP was expected to shrink by 9.8% in the second quarter.