(Adds details, updates with closing prices)
* FTSEurofirst 300 index ends 0.8 pct lower
* Sell-off gathers pace after U.S. jobs data
* Arcelor slumps on capital raising move
By Atul Prakash and Danilo Masoni
LONDON/MILAN, Feb 5 (Reuters) - European equities ended lower after a choppy session on Friday, with the sell-off accelerating in late business after U.S. jobs data left investors guessing about the possibility of an interest rate hike this year.
U.S. employment gains slowed more than expected in January as the boost to hiring from unseasonably mild weather faded, but surging wages and an unemployment rate at an eight-year low suggested the labour market recovery remains firm and more rate hikes could come this year.
“The result is an even more confused picture on the likely pace of rate increases from the Federal Reserve ... which is unlikely to be helpful for confidence in markets,” Jasper Lawler, analyst at CMC Markets, said.
The U.S. central bank raised its short-term interest rate in December for the first time in nearly a decade.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed 0.8 percent lower at 1,283.04 points after rising to an intra-day high of 1,303.41 points. The index fell 4.8 percent this week after gaining in the previous two weeks in a row.
Shares in ArcelorMittal fell 5.5 percent on Friday after the world’s largest steelmaker said it would raise $3 billion in fresh capital to reduce debt given weakness in the steel and mining sectors.
Finmeccanica shares fell nearly 6 percent after Milan prosecutors said they would be investigating the pricing of a deal with Hitachi.
But Hexagon advanced 4.2 percent after the measurement technology firm posted quarterly operating profit that beat forecasts, while Nokian Tyres climbed 11.2 percent after better-than-expected earnings.
BNP Paribas rose 1.5 percent after France’s biggest bank presented plans to cut investment banking costs, seeking to bolster profitability, and said it would quit some activities to fuel growth.
Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in London; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)