- UK construction activity growth falls
- UK house prices rise
- Chinese services PMI slows
- Eurozone lending to firms declines
- Fed's Bernanke due to speak
FTSE 100: 0.19%
CAC 40: 0.48%
FTSE MIB: 0.97%
IBEX 35: 0.39%
Stoxx 600: 0.56%
European stocks advanced after better-than-expected UK data.
Kicking off the session was the release of UK house price figures from Nationwide which showed a 1.4% rise in December compared to a month earlier when they increased 0.7%. Economists had expected the rate of growth to remain unchanged.
Growth was driven by London and the South East and supported by government schemes.
The report could fuel concerns that accelerating prices could lead to a housing bubble.
Also in the UK, the purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the construction industry fell to 62.1 last month from November's six-year high of 62.6, data from Markit/CIPS revealed. However, it beat the 62 forecast and was above the 50 level that indicates expansion.
"The latest survey highlights that construction companies enter 2014 with the wind in their sails," said Tim Moore, Senior Economist at Markit.
On a dull note for markets, however, services growth in China fell in December to the slowest in four months.
The PMI for the non-manufacturing industries dropped to 54.6 from 56 in November, a report from the Beijing-based National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed today.
In the US, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was due to speak. Investors were waiting to see whether he provided any clues as to whether the central bank will further reduce monetary stimulus at this month's meeting.
Bernanke, who steps down this month, announced at the last meeting that the Fed would begin scaling back monthly bond purchases to $75bn from $85bn.
Eurozone lending to firms falls
Lending to Eurozone companies declined at the fastest pace on record in November, falling by 3.9% compared with a 3.8% decline on the year in the previous month.
It comes despite the European Central Bank's (ECB) greatest efforts to spur the economy, including cutting interest rates to a record low and injecting extra liquidity into the banking sector.
"Worryingly, there is still no sign of any trend change in bank lending to Eurozone businesses, which heaps pressure on the ECB to act," said Howard Archer, Chief European Economist at IHS Economics.
Meanwhile in Spain, registered unemployment fell by 107,570 people in December, the country's labour ministry said in Madrid. It marked the largest drop since June.
Separately, preliminary data showed consumer inflation remained stable in Spain and eased slightly in Italy in December, which highlighted concern at continuing weakness in prices in the Eurozone.
Annual Italian European Union (EU)-harmonised consumer price inflation (HICP) for December declined to 0.6% from 0.7% in November.
Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE) reported that Spanish EU-harmonised consumer prices rose by 0.3% year-on-year in December.
Telecom Italia, Next
Telecom Italia SpA bounced higher following reports its largest owner is advancing a plan to sell the company's Brazilian business to competitors.
Next advanced after increasing its profit forecast for the full-year and saying its fourth-quarter sales beat its expectations.
Other retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sports Direct, Kingfisher, Home Retail and Sainsbury also rose this morning.
Remy Cointreau, the producer of Remy Martin cognac, declined after Frederic Pflanz resigned as Chief Executive Officer.
Schroders was up after Barclays upgraded the asset-management company to 'overweight' from 'underweight'.
The euro fell 0.49% to $1.3605.
Brent crude futures dropped $0.804 to $106.930 per barrel.