European stock markets closed higher. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index added 11.90 points, or 0.26%, to 4,511.20 despite a report that the U.K. budget deficit widened and that December mortgage lending growth accelerated. The pound sterling is up at $1.8323 amid speculation that the Bank of England will hike rates at next meeting.
In Paris, the CAC 40 added 16.19 points, or 0.44%, to 3,676.38 although consumer prices rose for the fifth consecutive month.
Germany's DAX index gained 31.63 points, or 0.77%, to 4,138.04 on bargain hunting and on a report that the German BGA wholesalers and exporters' association forecasts a 2004 sales rise.
Asian markets finished mixed on Wednesday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index lost 100.71 points, or 0.91%, to close at 11,002.39 as the Yen gained against the dollar in New York trading, causing the stock benchmarks to close lower for the first day in four pushed down by exporters.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 180.15 points, or 1.33%, to close at 13,750.58.
Canada's benchmark S&P/TSX fell 1.74 points, or 0.02%, to 8,621.88.