- Eurozone consumer confidence rises
- Russia finalises treaty on Crimea
- Fed officials speak
- Fitch upgrades outlook on US economy
- UK public sector debt grows
FTSE 100: 0.23%
CAC 40: 0.17%
FTSE MIB: -0.58%
IBEX 35: -0.22%
Stoxx 600: 0.08%
European stocks ended the week mixed as a report showed Eurozone consumer confidence rose more than expected and Russia finalised a treaty on annexing Crimea from Ukraine.
The European Commission said its preliminary sentiment index for the Eurozone jumped to -9.3 in March from -12.7 in February, surprising analysts who had forecast an increase to -12.4.
The European Union as a whole also improved to -6.7 this month from -9.3 points in February.
In another lift to markets, Standard & Poor's (S&P) affirmed Greece's sovereign credit rating as 'B-/B' rating and gave it a 'stable' outlook, citing an improving economy.
The ratings agency said that the European nation has started to rebalance thanks to the government's commitment to fiscal and structural reforms.
On a downbeat note, tensions in Crimea remained high as the European Union (EU) and the US warned Russia of the consequences of further steps to destabilise Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed laws completing his nation's annexation of Crimea today, shrugging off further sanctions on Russian officials by the US and EU.
Nominal GDP targeting has challenges, says Fed's Bullard
Federal Reserve official James Bullard said today that using monetary policy to target a specific rate of economic growth posed challenges.
Such hurdles include the difficulty of knowing how fast the economy really should be growing, Bullard said on the debate over so-called nominal gross domestic product (GDP)-targeting at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
However, he offered no insight into his view of the Fed's decision on Wednesday to reduce its monthly asset purchases for a third time by $10bn to $55bn, nor the possibility of an interest rate rise.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank may raise interest rates in the next six months after ending quantitative easing.
Fed policymakers Richard Fisher, Narayana Kocherlakota and Jeremy Stein were also due to speak this evening, potentially shedding further light on the situation.
Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings raised its outlook on the US economic outlook to 'stable' from 'negative' after Congress suspended the nation's debt limit for more than a year, which reduces the risk of a default.
UK public sector debt
The UK public sector's net borrowing requirement for February came in at £9.3bn after a revised reading of £5bn the month before. Analyst had expected £8.6bn.
It came as a result of a current budget deficit of £6.5bn together with £2.8bn in net investment.
"Looking ahead, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast of a further drop in the underlying deficit to £95.5bn in 2014-15 could prove to be a bit pessimistic if the economy expands by around 3% as we expect," Capital Economics said.
"But the big picture is still that there is a very long way to go before the public finances are restored to full health."
Delivering the Budget 2014-15 on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne said while the country was moving towards a small surplus in 2018-19, he believed the country still spends and borrows too much.
Miners gain on copper price rise
A gauge of miners rallied, including Rio Tinto, Fresnillo and Anglo American, as the price of copper edged higher.
Commerzbank was up after Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the German lender to 'overweight' from 'equal weight'.
Havas SA retreated after the French advertising agency posted 2013 profit that fell short of analysts' estimates.
Remy Cointreau dropped as UBS said the French alcoholic beverage company will find it harder to recover from a slump in Chinese sales because it lacks the global distribution channels of its rivals.
Burberry slipped after Bank of America cut its rating of the luxury fashion retailer to 'neutral' from 'buy', citing currency headwinds.
Crest Nicolson tumbled following news Deutsche Bank, its largest publicly disclosed shareholder, is selling as many as 16.5m shares
in the housebuilder.
The euro rose 0.07% to $1.3789.
Brent crude futures increased $0.949 to $107.470 per barrel, according to the ICE.