- Obama announces sanctions against Russia
- Fed's Yellen indicates interest rate increase
- US jobless claims rise, existing home sales fall
- Spanish bond yields hit pre-crisis lows
FTSE 100: -0.47%
CAC 40: 0.46%
FTSE MIB: 0.56%
IBEX 35: -0.13%
Stoxx 600: 0.01%
European stocks ended the session mixed as US President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Crimea.
Obama's remarks come after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday accepting Crimea as a sovereign state. It followed a referendum on Sunday which showed an overwhelming support for the region to leave Ukraine.
Obama said there would be visa bans and asset freezes in Russia and sanctions against senior officials of the country's government.
"In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals," he said.
European Union leaders also gathered in Brussels today to consider imposing their own further sanctions on Moscow.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said negotiations with the Ukrainian authorities on a programme of economic reforms had made "significant progress".
"Our cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities has been excellent," the IMF's Nikolay Gueorguiev said in a statement today.
"The authorities' comprehensive reform program covers a wide range of issues and additional work needs to be completed to advance program discussions. The mission plans to conclude its work on March 25th."
US Fed and economic data
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said interest rates would increase "in the order of around six months" after the central bank ends it ends quantitative easing. Analysts had widely expected a rate hike to come towards the end of 2015.
Yellen spoke after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to scale back its asset purchase programme by another $10bn a month to $55bn, its third staged reduction of stimulus, as expected by analysts.
Bond purchases should come to an end in October or November if the Fed continues to taper at the same rate at each meeting.
Today in the US was the release of weekly jobless claims and existing home sales.
Jobless claims rose by 5,000 to 320,000 in the week ended March 15th but came in below the consensus forecast of 322,000.
The Philadelphia Fed regional manufacturing index surged from -6.3 in February to 9.0 this month, well ahead of the 3.2 consensus forecast.
Meanwhile, existing-home sales fell by 0.4% to 4.6m in February, as expected by analysts, easing from the 5.1% drop the previous month.
Spanish and French auctions
Spain's borrowing costs over five and 15 years fell to their lowest at an auction since the economic crisis began.
The Treasury sold €5bn of three year bonds on Thursday, the top end of the target range of between €4bn and €5bn. Spain has now raised a third of the debt it aimed to sell in the whole of 2014.
France allotted €3.7bn in May 2019 at an average yield of 1.06%, in line with a previous auction on Feb. 20. The Treasury also sold debt due in 2016 and 2017 as well as €1.5bn of inflation-linked bonds maturing between 2018 and 2024.
Both auctions seemed to have gone off without a hitch.
Intu Properties, GSK
Intu Properties retreated as the UK's largest shopping-mall owner agreed to buy three retail centres from Westfield Group for £867.8m.
GlaxoSmithKline declined after saying its experimental lung-cancer drug failed to meet its objectives in a clinical study.
Munich Re gained after the reinsurer announced it will buy back shares
worth €1bn before its 2015 shareholder meeting.
Rheinmetall slumped after Germany's Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel stopped the company from building a military training centre in Russia's Volga region, Focus magazine reported.
Gaming companies Ladbrokes and William Hill edged lower after UK Chancellor George Osborne raised the duty on in-store gaming machines.
Lanxess jumped as the chemical maker projected first-quarter earnings that was higher than analysts had expected.
Next advanced as the fashion retailer reported a rise in annual pre-tax profit that beat analysts' estimates.
The euro fell 0.33% to $1.3787.
Brent crude futures rose $0.264 to $106.120 per barrel, according to the ICE.