- Putin signs treaty to annex Crimea
- German investor confidence falls
- US inflation rises in line
- US housing starts drop
FTSE 100: 0.56%
CAC 40: 0.97%
FTSE MIB: 0.86%
IBEX 35: 0.70%
Stoxx 600: 0.64%
European stocks rallied as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine but said Moscow will work to rebuild ties with its neighbour.
The treaty paves the way for Crimea to re-join Russia, after Nikita Kruschev handed the nation over to Ukraine in 1954.
"It was such an historical unfairness, at that moment Crimea was handed over to Ukraine but now all of this is in the past," Putin said in a speech today.
Putin dismissed sanctions by the US and Europe, saying the West had "crossed the line".
He said he hopes to mend the relationship with Ukraine as it was "vitally important" for both sides.
"Traders had previously been concerned that any sanctions made against Russia could provoke a retaliation from the Kremlin, but this does not look likely," said Craig Erlam, Analyst at Alpari UK.
"Not only were the sanctions by the US and the European Union on 11 and 21 Russian and Crimean officials, respectively, viewed as weak by the markets, Putin did not appear concerned about them in the slightest. In fact, he didn't even mention them in his address before Parliament."
German investor confidence
German investor confidence fell to the lowest since August as political turmoil between Ukraine and Russia threatened to weigh on Europe's biggest economy.
The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to forecast economic developments six months in advance, slid to 46.6 from 55.7 in February. Economists had predicted a reading of 52.
ZEW said the Crimea crisis had weighed on the outlook for the economy.
The research institute's economic sentiment index for the Eurozone fell to 61.5 in March from 68.5 a month earlier.
US consumer prices rose by 0.1% in February, in line with January's reading and the consensus estimate. However, the annual rate of inflation fell to 1.1% from 1.6% in the month before, below the 1.2% forecast.
US building permits surged by 7.7% to 1.02m, up from a revised 945,000 in the month before and ahead of the 960,000 forecast.
US housing starts fell by just 0.2% last month to reach an annualised rate of 907,000, close to analysts' expectations of 910,000, while January's reading was upwardly revised to 909,000.
The Federal Reserve today kicked off its two-day policy meeting after which the central bank is expected to announce a $10bn cut to its monthly bond purchases.
Kuoni Reisen climbs
Kuoni Reisen advanced as the Swiss travel company posted 2013 profits that beat analysts' forecasts.
Cairn Energy dropped after saying it is suspending a share buyback programme as it resolves its tax dispute over its Indian arm.
Scania slumped as a board committee reviewing Volkswagen's takeover offer said the bid was too low.
SBM Offshore gained as the The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dutch supplier of floating oil and gas rigs doesn't see any indications of improper sales practices in Brazil.
Resolution edged lower as the British life insurer announed plans to change its name to Friends Life.
The euro fell 0.09% to $1.3910.
Brent crude futures rose $0.394 to $106.660 per barrel, according to the ICE.