Forexpros – European stocks closed mixed Thursday, punished by surging Italian and Spanish borrowing costs and sustained concerns over a potential Greek exit from the euro zone ahead of key elections in Athens on Sunday.

During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 added 0.22%, France’s CAC 40 eased higher by 0.08%, while Germany’s DAX 30 gave back 0.23%.

Sentiment weakened after Italy’s Treasury sold the maximum targeted amount of EUR4.5 billion, but the country’s three-year borrowing costs jumped to the highest level since December.

Following the auction, the yield on Italy’s 10-year bonds ticked up to 6.30%, from 6.27% earlier, while the yield on Spanish 10-year bonds was at 6.98%, after briefly rising above the critical 7% threshold, a level seen as unsustainable in the long run.

Investor confidence was hit after ratings agency Moody’s cut Spain’s credit rating by three notches to just above junk status and warned that further cuts were possible, fuelling fears over the crisis in the country’s banking sector.

Financial stocks were mixed on Thursday, amid ongoing euro zone debt concerns. Shares in French lenders Societe Generale and BNP Paribas declined 0.72% and 0.18%, erasing earlier gains, and Germany’s Deutsche Bank tumbled 1.50%.

Meanwhile, peripheral lenders held gains, with shares in Spain’s Banco Santander advancing 0.45%, and Italian lenders Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo climbing 1.25% and 0.60% respectively.

In Switzerland, Credit Suisse saw shares dive 8.58% after the Swiss National Bank said it needed a “marked increase” in capital this year to prepare for risks from a possible escalation of the euro area’s debt crisis.

Elsewhere, auto stocks remained broadly lower. Shares in BMW plunged 2.72% and Daimler plummeted 2.86%, while Volkswagen retreated 0.70%.

In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 dropped 0.31%, weighed by sharp losses in mining stocks.

Copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys extended earlier losses, plunging 3.22% and 2% respectively, while mining giants Rio Tinto and Bhp Billiton declined 1.93% and 1.94%.

Oil and gas major Anglo American also pushed lower, down 2.53%, while BP slumped 0.61%.

British Sky Broadcasting Group remained one of the session’s top losers, down 6.90%, and telecom firm BT Group retreated 3.01% after the two companies won the bidding to show 154 English Premier League soccer matches starting in the 2013-14 season.

On the upside, financial stocks held gains, as shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland jumped 1.72% and Barclays rose 0.72%, while Lloyds Banking and HSBC Holdings added 0.44% and 0.26%.

The U.K. government said earlier that it is set to outline tough measures on Thursday that will force banks to separate their retail-lending activities from riskier investment-banking businesses in one of the most wide-ranging regulatory overhauls the country’s financial sector has seen.

In the U.S., equity markets traded sharply higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures up 0.87%, S&P 500 higher by 0.76%, while the tech – heavy Nasdaq 100 futures moved higher by 0.58%.

Also Thursday, official data showed that consumer price inflation in the euro zone held steady in May, unchanged from a preliminary estimate.