Europe shares end higher as ECB meeting approaches

European equities finished higher on Wednesday as investors geared up for the European Central Bank’s (ECB) policy meeting on Thursday.

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index (^STOXX) closed around 0.6 percent higher, after a fairly cautious trading week so far.

The French CAC (Euronext Paris: .FCHI) and German DAX (^GDAXI) both closed just shy of 1 percent higher, while London’s FTSE (FTSE International: .FTSE) finished around 0.4 percent higher.

On the data front, new figures showed euro zone business activity continued to expand in February, although at a slower rate than expected. The final composite reading of Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) came in at 53.3 in February, slightly below a preliminary reading of 53.5.

Read More Weak euro boosts euro zone businesses

The ECB could announce at the press conference following its governing council meeting on Thursday when it will start its QE bond-buying program and give more details about what assets it could buy.

In the U.S., the ADP private payrolls report showed a gain of 212,000 in February, below expectations and the slowest pace since August 2014. The January private payrolls report was revised up to 250,000.

The ADP data is considered a pre-indicator of Friday’s labor market report.

U.S. stocks traded lower on Wednesday as investors weighed a series of economic data ahead of Friday’s employment report that could shed light on the timing of an interest rate hike

Read More Private job growth slowest in six months: ADP

Markets will also kept an eye on Greece ahead of it receiving a final tranche of crucial aid . German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble kept his tough line on Greece, telling a German newspaper that the onus was on the government in Athens to fulfil the conditions of its bailout program before further aid would be paid out, Reuters reported Wednesday.

In other news, the U.K. government announced that it was selling its 40 percent stake in the cross-Channel train operator Eurostar to an Anglo-Canadian consortium for £757.1 million ($ 1.16 billion), the BBC reported Wednesday morning.

Elsewhere, Royal Bank of Scotland (London Stock Exchange: RBS-GB) said it is aiming to cut as many as 14,000 jobs in its investment banking units across the United States and Asia, the Financial Times reported late Tuesday.

In stocks news, Henkel (XETRA:HEN3-DE) shares slipped as much 2 percent after the manufacturing company announced a fall in profits after restructuring charges, before closing 0.75 percent lower.

Shares of ITV (London Stock Exchange: ITV-GB) surged over 5 percent at the open as the U.K. broadcaster gave a confident outlook after reporting a rise in profits.

Fresnillo (London Stock Exchange: FRES-GB) shares plummeted over 8 percent Wednesday as it highlighted a slump in profits due to lower metal prices.

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