- BoE releases meeting minutes
- UK unemployment rises to 7.2 per cent
- US housing starts fall unexpectedly
- Fed to unveil meeting minutes
FTSE 100: 0.00%
CAC 40: 0.24%
FTSE MIB: -0.20%
IBEX 35: 0.11%
Stoxx 600: 0.10%
European stocks were little changed after the Bank of England (BoE) released its policy meeting minutes and the UK unemployment rate unexpectedly rose.
Minutes from the BoE's meeting earlier this month revealed policymakers showed no disagreement about major changes to the central bank's forward guidance policy.
The Bank had vowed to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5% at least until the jobless rate fell to 7%.
However, a faster-than-expected drop in unemployment prompted BoE Governor Mark Carney to issue a new guidance that incorporated several other factors including spare capacity in the economy.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today said unemployment rose to 7.2% in the three months to December from 7.1% the previous quarter. Economists had predicted the rate would remain unchanged.
"As the unemployment rate moved away from the Bank of England's target, interest rates will remain rock bottom for the foreseeable future," said IG Market Analyst Alastair McCaig.
"Mark Carney can't win them all; yesterday the inflation rate dipped below the BoE's target so it is hardly a shock that unemployment has edged higher. Overall the governor must happy with himself."
The ONS report also showed employers added 193,000 workers in the quarter to December, below the estimates of 250,000 and the prior quarter's 280,000.
Jobless claims in January dropped 27,600, compared to 27,700 a month earlier, surprising analysts who had expected it to fall by 20,000.
US housing starts weaker than predicted
The Commerce Department revealed that housing starts fell by 16% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000 units, compared with a revised 1.05m-unit rate in December when they fell 4.8%. This was the worst percentage drop since February 2011 and well below the 4.9% fall expected by analysts.
Separately, US building permits fell 5.4% in January to a 937,000-unit pace, down from the revised 991,000 in December when they declined 2.6%. Analysts had predicted a smaller fall to 975,000.
Meanwhile, US mortgage applications retreated 4.1% in the week ended February 14th against a 2% slump the previous week.
The US Federal Reserve will tonight release minutes of last month's meeting when it decided to scale back monthly bond purchases for the second time by $10bn to $65bn.
New Chair Janet Yellen has indicated that the Fed is likely to continue reducing its monetary stimulus after each meeting until ending it all together later this year.
EU leaders call for sanctions in Ukraine
European leaders have called on the Ukraine government to put an end to violence in the country after at least 25 people died.
They include French President Francois Holland, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
President President Viktor Yanukovich today warned opposition leaders backing the protest movement to "immediately disassociate themselves from radical forces which are provoking bloodshed" while accusing European leaders of trying to seize power by force.
Analysts raised concerns that the impact of the unrest could spill over to emerging markets which are currently tackling weak currencies.
Tenaris and Vallourec slide
Industrial firms Tenaris and Vallourec slipped after the US failed to impose anti-dumping penalties on imports of steel tubing from South Korea in a decision late yesterday.
Lafarge and Carlsberg advanced after they both posted fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates.
Wolters Kluwer slumped after the information services and publishing company forecast restructuring costs of €25m to €30m in 2014.
Meda AB surged after the maker of Dymista allergy medicine said its margin on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBIDA) will probably improve in 2014.
The euro rose 0.01% to $1.3761.
Brent crude futures dropped $0.072 to $110.380 per barrel, according to data from the ICE.