- M&A activity boosts sentiment
- Eurozone inflation revised down
- Crimea votes to join Russia
FTSE 100: 0.40%
CAC 40: 0.74%
FTSE MIB: 1.12%
IBEX 35: 1.12%
Stoxx 600: 1.16%
European stocks edged higher as merger and acquisition announcements from the likes of Vodafone and RWE boosted investor confidence.
Vodafone rallied as the telecommunications company agreed to buy Spanish cable operator Grupo Corporativo Ono SA.
RWE gained after L1 Energy agreed to spend €5.1bn on the utility's Dea division.
Allianz SE jumped after the insurer said it was buying assets from Italy's Unipol Gruppo Finanziario SpA.
Eurozone inflation revised lower
The preliminary estimate for consumer price inflation in the Eurozone in February has been revised slightly lower.
The region's consumer price index (CPI) is now estimated to have risen by 0.7% on the year, compared to the 0.8% increase initially calculated and the 0.8% advance seen in January, updated figures from Eurostat revealed.
The month-on-month rate of change was also revised down, to show a gain of 0.3% versus the previous estimate of 0.4%.
The European Central Bank (ECB), which is targeting inflation of just under 2%, is likely to face more pressure to enact greater measures to tackle falling prices.
In the US later on, attention will turn to the release of industrial and manufacturing data ahead of tomorrow's two-day Federal Reserve policy meeting.
Crimea votes to leave Ukraine
Crimea's parliament has formally declared independence from Ukraine and asked to rejoin the Russian Federation following a referendum yesterday.
The government in Kiev, the US and the European Union (EU) have said the vote is illegal and would not be internationally recognised.
Crimea has been under the control of pro-Russia forces since late February.
Russia has deployed about 60,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, the government in Kiev said. Ukraine closed border crossings to Russia and said it will mobilise up to 20,000 volunteers to join its army, according to the head of the National Security Council.
EU foreign ministers met in Brussels today to decide on whether to impose travel bans and asset freezes on Russian officials.
"The reality is that we're likely to see a long drawn out stand-off between the two, which traders will eventually become bored of and move on to the next thing," Alpari analyst Craig Erlam said of Russia and Ukraine.
"I don't think anyone expects this to escalate much further as everyone has too much to lose and too little to gain."
UK housebuilders including Persimmon, Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey advanced after UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that he will extend the Help-to-Buy stimulus programme until 2020 from its current expiry date of April 2016.
Siemens AG surged after Bank of America Corp. upgraded Europe's largest engineering company to 'buy' from 'neutral'.
Linde AG slumped after the producer of industrial gases reported fourth-quarter profit that missed analysts' estimates.
The euro fell 0.17% to $1.3891.
Brent crude futures declined $0.567 to $107.600 per barrel, according to the ICE.