European shares edged lower in the opening minutes of trade on the back of bigger-than-expected contractions in the major economies of the euro area such as Germany and France.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index opened flat while the UK's FTSE 100 slid 0.1 percent. Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 fell 0.2 percent each.

Italy's FTSE MIB and Spain's Ibex were down 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

Preliminary data showed France's GDP shrank 0.3 percent as against a growth of 0.1 percent in the previous quarter. GDP declined 0.3 percent for the full year.

The German economy contracted 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter as exports declined in the euro region's biggest lender. This is against a growth of 0.2 percent in the third quarter and analysts' expectation of a 0.5 percent contraction for the final three months of last year.

On the earnings front, mining major Rio Tinto posted an annual net loss of $3bn (€2.2bn, £1.9bn) after write downs of $14.4bn, primarily relating to aluminium businesses as well as coal assets in Mozambique.

Other major data in focus during the day includes the US labour market figures for the week to 10 February. Thoughts will also be turning to the start of the two-day G20 meeting in Moscow tomorrow (15 February).

In Asia, the Bank of Japan left its key interest rates and asset purchase programme unchanged, despite a third straight quarter of contraction in the economy. The Japanese economy unexpectedly shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to a decline in domestic consumption and exports. This is against the analysts' expectation of a 0.1 percent growth.

Most Asian bourses closed in the positive while the Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.5 percent and ended at 11,307.3, whereas the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.7 percent and closed at 5,036.9, a fresh four-year high. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.9 percent.

South Korea's KOSPI rose 0.2 percent while Singapore's Straits Times lost 0.2 percent. Equity markets in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam remain shut for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Major Movers in Asia

Asahi Group Holdings rose 5.8 percent in Japan as the biggest beer maker in the country announced a share buyback and forecast 15 percent rise in profit. Real estate investment trust Nippon Prologis REIT jumped 24 percent in its Nikkei trading debut.

In Sidney, Alumina Ltd gained 7.5 percent after the China's Citic Resources Holdings purchased a minority stake in the Australian refiner.