LONDON (CNNfn) - Europe's bourses floundered in negative territory in midday trade Wednesday as Wall Street's performance Tuesday lent a listless tone to markets.
In Britain, the FTSE index of 100 leading stocks slipped 0.87 percent or 53.4 points, to 6.055.2.
On the International Petroleum Exchange, London Brent crude oil futures traded below $10 a barrel for the first time since December, as world oil prices sagged under the weight of a global oil glut. Brent crude for April traded at $9.91 a barrel, down 14 cents.
New economic data showed a 5,700-person decline in British joblessness last month to 1.3 million, the lowest level since 1980. The unemployment rate held steady from the previous month, at 4.6 percent.
The electronically-traded Xetra Dax extended earlier losses, slipping 1.82 percent to 4,806.01 ahead of a policy meeting on Thursday of the European Central Bank.
The bank has indicated that it is unlikely to cut rates, despite calls from some economists for another 25 basis-point easing in the next few months.
Deutsche Bank (FDBK), Europe's largest financial institution, shed 0.50 euros to 47.85 after reporting relatively flat operating profits of 4.3 billion marks ($2.5 billion), in line with forecasts. Deutsche will report its full results on March 18.
The losses came as some lawyers in the U.S. attacked a compensation fund established Tuesday by 12 leading German companies - including Deutsche Bank - for those who suffered expropriations or were forced to work as slave laborers during the Nazi Holocaust.
Deutsche Telekom shares were down 5 percent at 36.50 euros. A German newspaper reported Deutsche Telekom expects a 3 percent profit decline this year.
The fall coincides with mounting industry concerns over increasingly cutthroat competition in the telecom sector.
Traders were also keeping their eyes on crucial talks between employers and Germany's largest union, IG Metall, which are due to finish late Wednesday night.
MAN (FMAN), a German machinery maker, saw its shares slump 3 euros to 229.50, while steelmaker Preussag (FPRS) shed 4.00 euros to 429. Application software maker SAP (FSAP) shed 6.50 euros to 312.50.
In Zurich, the SMI index was off 0.82 points at 6,957.5, while Paris shares eased 1.78 percent, or 72.10 points, to 3,980.22.
The French government will select core shareholders for its privatization of Credit Lyonnais in May, the French business newspaper Les Echos reported Wednesday.
Separately, the Financial Times reported that the Banque Nationale de Paris is offering to guarantee the jobs of Crédit Lyonnais' 30,000 workers in return for a sizable stake in the privatized entity.
The French government plans to sell up to 30 percent of the company to institutional investors and float 50 percent on the open stock market. Employees of the bank and government officials are expected to hold the remainder, the FT reported.
In London, U.K. mortgage bank Woolwich (WWH) surged more than 4 percent to 381-1/2 pence after the company said annual pretax profits came in at 505.1 million pounds ($823.9 million), slightly ahead of consensus estimates. Woolwich also surprised markets by announcing a special 15 pence-per-share dividend.
Other mortgage banks were buoyed by the news. Halifax (HFX) climbed 3.51 percent, while Abbey National (ANL) gained 2.23 percent. Halifax and Abbey are due to report their earnings on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Zeneca (ZEN) slipped 1.30 percent to 2,583 pence on the FTSE after the British drug and agrochemicals company reported a 2 percent drop in 1998 profits to 1.063 billion pounds ($1.734 billion). Zeneca said the earnings report is likely to be the last before the company's expected merger with Sweden's Astra.
Oil Giant BP Amoco (BP) was also due out with earnings Wednesday.
--from staff and wire reports