- Eurozone GDP, PMI, retail sales released
- ECB policy meeting looms
- EU offers Ukraine bailout
FTSE 100: -0.71%
CAC 40: -0.11%
FTSE MIB: 1.38%
IBEX 35: 0.87%
Stoxx 600: -0.03%
European stocks were mixed as investors weighed a slate of economic data and prepared for tomorrow's European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.
The Eurozone's economy grew by 0.5% in the fourth quarter compared to a year earlier, in line with expectations, Eurostat confirmed today.
A separate report showed Eurozone retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 1.6% in January, surprising analysts who had predicted a 0.8% gain. In December sales fell by a revised 1.3%.
Markit's Eurozone composite purchasing managers' index (PMI), which measures manufacturing and services activity, came in at 53.3 in February, revised up from the flash estimate of 52.7, an improvement from the prior reading of 52.9.
The data comes a day ahead of the ECB's policy meeting. Economists are split on whether the ECB will change its policy at tomorrow's meeting to tackle high unemployment and low inflation.
ECB President Mario Draghi has said the current rate of inflation, at 0.8%, was well below the 2% target and remain low for a "protracted period of time". Unemployment also remains at 12%.
Last month Draghi hinted at the possibility of enacting greater measures, saying he was awaiting more comprehensive data in March before making a decision.
Economists are mixed on whether the ECB will take action.
IMF calls on ECB to cut interest rates
International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials believe the ECB should cut interest rates and either inject more liquidity into the banking system via its Long-Term Refinancing Operations (LTRO) or start public and private asset purchases.
The IMF's European Department said in a blog that low inflation was thwarting efforts to reduce debt, regain competitiveness and tackle unemployment.
"The ECB must be sure that policies are equal to the tasks of reversing the downward drift in inflation and forestalling the risk of a slide into deflation," they said.
In other European news, the EU has put Italy on its watch list due the country's very high debt and warned France that it will miss agreed budget deficit targets unless it addresses the issue.
The European Commission said that Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Croatia,Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom all had imbalances in their economies.
US employment, services
Data from ADP today showed that US private sector payrolls expanded by 139,000 last month, missing the consensus estimate for a rise of 158,000. January's 175,000 increase was revised to 127,000.
The report comes ahead of the more closely-watched official employment report on Friday. Non-farm payrolls are expected to have risen by 150,000, up from the 113,000 total observed in January, while the unemployment rate is predicted to remain stable at 6.6%.
Another report indicated that service industries in the US expanded in February at the slowest pace in four years. The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index slipped to 51.6 in February from 54 the previous month.
EU offers Ukraine aid
The European Union (EU) has promised €1.6bn in emergency aid to help the Ukrainian government avert a default.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said its proposed emergency funding would be available once Ukraine strikes a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today in Paris to address the political crisis in Ukraine.
Kerry warned Russia against violating "very clear legal obligations" to uphold Ukraine's unity after the country's government was accused of sending troops into Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the claims yesterday, saying they were local self-defence forces to protect citizens and insisting military action would be used as a last resort.
Melrose dropped after reporting fourth quarter profit that fell short of projections.
Lonmin slumped as the platinum producer said it won't meet its full-year sales target due to strikes in South Africa.
Carrefour advanced after France's largest retailer reported an increase in 2013 earnings and said it will lift spending this year.
Admiral Group jumped as the owner of the confused.com website posted profit and sales that exceeded forecasts.
Subsea 7 slumped as the offshore oil-services provider reported fourth quarter net income that missed analysts' estimates.
The euro fell 0.8% to $1.3732.
Brent crude futures dipped $0.970 to $108.250 per barrel, according to the ICE.