- Eurozone consumer confidence falls
- German inflation drops more than forecast
- German unemployment declines
- US jobless claims rise
- Yellen delivers testimony to Senate
FTSE 100: 0.16%
CAC 40: -0.01%
FTSE MIB: -0.38%
IBEX 35% -0.59%
Stoxx 600: -0.15%
European stocks were little changed following a day of mixed economic releases in the Eurozone and the US.
Eurozone consumer confidence fell in line with expectations in February, a report showed this morning. The index for consumer sentiment dropped to -12.7 from -11.7 in January.
On a brighter note, economic confidence rose to 101.2 in February, the highest reading since July 2011, from a revised 101 in January. Economists had predicted a reading of 100.7.
In Germany, the number of people unemployed fell 14,000 compared to forecasts of 10,000, while jobless claims declined by 28,000, according to the Federal Statistics Office. The jobless rate held steady at 6.8% as expected.
Germany's European Union-harmonised annual inflation rate decelerated more than expected to 1% year-on-year in February from 1.2% the previous month, preliminary data from the Federal Statistics Office showed today. It was anticipated by analysts to slow to 1.1%.
The lower inflation in Europe's biggest economy is likely to pile pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) to shake up its policy.
ECB President Mario Draghi, who was due to speak in Frankfurt late today, has indicated that the central bank is considering enacting greater measures to tackle low inflation and high unemployment.
The inflation figures for February will be released tomorrow, along with the unemployment rate.
Consumer prices in February are forecast by the consensus to have risen by 0.8% in February, in line with the prior month, and well below the ECB's 2% target. Barclays Research and Credit Suisse, on the other hand, see it coming in at 0.6%.
The unemployment rate is expected to have held at 12%.
US jobs, Yellen testimony
US jobless claims increased by 14,000 to 348,000 in the week ended February 22nd, from 334,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today. Economists had expected 335,000 claims.
The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring the labour market to gauge the health of the world's biggest economy ahead of its next policy meeting. Fed Chair Yellen has indicated that the Fed is likely to continue reducing monthly asset purchases at each meeting until ending it all together later this year.
Yellen delivered her testimony on policy and the economy to the Senate Banking Committee this afternoon. She confessed that some economic data had been weaker since she spoke to the House of Representatives on February 11th, but that it was difficult to say how much of that was due to weather.
"In the weeks and months ahead, my colleagues and I will be attentive to signals that indicate whether the recovery is progressing in line with our earlier expectations," she said.
In other US news, a report showed durable goods orders fell less than expected in January. Orders dropped 1% compared to a fall of 5.3% in December. Analysts predicted a decrease of 1.7%.
Ukraine tensions flare
On another negative note for markets, Interfax news agency reported that Russia had put its fighter jets on combat alert as part of military exercises near its Ukrainian border as tensions escalated.
The European Union had helped broker a peace deal ending weeks of deadly violence in Kiev but the pact collapsed over the weekend and led to the ousting of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovich told Russian media today he considers himself the legitimate leader of the eastern-European nation.
Following several days of hiding, Yanukovich said it had become "obvious" that citizens in the southeast of Ukraine and Crimea - which have an ethnic Russian majority - would not accept anarchy and lawlessness.
WPP, Man Group
WPP slumped as the advertising giant increased its share buyback programme to counter a hit from volatile emerging market exchange rates
as it reported its 2013 results. Numis said shares
could come under pressure from the impact to reported margins and slightly lower margin guidance.
Man Group advanced as the hedge-fund announced a $115m stock buyback.
Royal Bank of Scotland's shares declined after the state-backed lender widened its 2013 pre-tax loss to £8.24bn from £5.27bn a year earlier, missing analysts' estimates of £6.7bn. It marked the bank's biggest loss since the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
Water utility Veolia Environnement gained as Chairman Antoine Frerot forecast that revenue, operating income and net income would increase in 2014.
Allianz dropped as Europe's largest insurer posted fourth quarter earnings that fell short of market forecasts and said operating profit may decline this year amid low interest rates.
Royal Ahold advanced as the Dutch owner of Stop & Shop and Giant stores said fourth-quarter underlying operational income fell less than forecast, driven by sales in the Netherlands.
The euro rose 0.19% to $1.3713.
Brent crude fell $0.717 to $108.740 per barrel, according to from the ICE.