LONDON (AP) -- Strong economic figures out of Europe shored up markets Wednesday, though gains were capped by a sales warning from construction equipment maker Caterpillar and concerns over China.
Financial information company Markit said its monthly purchasing managers' index — a broad gauge of economic activity — for the 17-country eurozone rose for the fourth month running, to 50.4 points in July from 48.7 the previous month.
The increase, which was larger than anticipated, suggests the eurozone economy is growing again — anything above 50 indicates an expansion. Hopes have grown of late that official figures next month may show that the eurozone's recession, which started in late 2011, may have come to an end in the second quarter.
"Yesterday's weakness and indecision in the markets, prompted by a general dearth of major news, has been banished as investors look to some surprisingly positive data from the eurozone," said Yusuf Heusen, a sales trader at IG.
Germany's DAX was up 0.3 percent at 8,335 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.7 percent to 3,952. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was flat at 6,595. The PMI survey did little for the euro, which was trading flat, but near recent highs, at $1.3220.
A warning of slowing sales from Caterpillar, the world's largest construction equipment company, brought Europe's indexes down from earlier highs and saw Wall Street open lower.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.3 percent at 15,518 and the broader S&P 500 index 0.2 percent lower at 1,689.
Besides Caterpillar, earnings from AT&T also disappointed, though reports from Boeing and Ford were better than expected.
The big mover was Apple, which saw its share price rise nearly 5 percent following its after-hours statement on Tuesday that sales of iPhones helped quarterly profits rise by more than expected in the markets.
"Last night's numbers from Apple were also a welcome respite for the tech sector which has struggled in the current earnings season," said Andy McLevey, head of dealing at Interactive Investor.
Earlier during the Asian session, Chinese shares were in focus after a survey showed the country's manufacturing fell to its lowest point in nearly a year. HSBC said its preliminary estimate for its purchasing managers' index for July declined more than expected to an 11-month low, another sign of a deepening economic slowdown.
The widely watched report is one of the earliest indicators on the health of China's economy, the world's second biggest. Analysts say the findings pave the way for more disappointment.
The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China closed 0.5 percent lower at 2,033.33 after falling as much as 1.3 percent.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 0.3 percent to 14,731.28. Other indexes reversed earlier losses to finish in positive territory. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 21,968.93 and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.4 percent to 1,912.
- Australia International News