- ECB announces policy
- BoE keeps policy unchanged
- Crimea votes to join Russia
FTSE 100: 0.15%
CAC 40: 0.59%
FTSE MIB: 0.84%
IBEX 35: 1.07%
Stoxx 600: 0.37%
European stocks gained ahead of the European Central Bank's (ECB) policy decision.
The ECB meets today to decide whether to enact greater measures to tackle high unemployment and low inflation.
Inflation is currently at 0.8%, well below the ECB's 2%, and unemployment remains at 12%.
ECB President Mario Draghi has said he expects inflation to remain low for a "prolonged" period of time and hinted at the possibility of taking action following the release of more comprehensive data in March.
However, economists are mixed on the monetary authority's next move. Barclays expects the ECB will cut interest rates while analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch believe the central bank is likely to hold fire until later meetings.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the ECB to 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 Bank of England, meanwhile, decided to maintain its policy by keeping interest rates at 0.5% and asset purchases at £375bn, as expected.
Last year the BoE vowed to keep interest rates low until unemployment falls to 7%. However, a sooner-than-anticipated drop towards the threshold prompted Governor Mark Carney last month to change the forward guidance to include a wider range of indicators including spare capacity in the economy.
In the US later on in the session will be the release of reports on weekly jobless claims and factory orders.
Crimea votes to join Russia
The Crimean parliament has voted unanimously to join Russia as tensions in the Ukraine escalate.
The Ukraine's Russian-backed region has set a referendum for March 16th.
European Union leaders had called an emergency meeting to consider the repercussions on Russia over military intervention in Ukraine after Moscow turned down Western diplomatic efforts to persuade it to pull forces in Crimea back to their bases.
Aggreko rallied as the power generation company said it will give shareholders an extra £200m after reporting 2013 profit that beat analysts' expectations.
Bouygues gained after the company put in a bid for Vivendi's French phone unit SFR.
Orange edged higher after the French phone forecast 2014 earnings that exceeded market expectations.
Deutsche Telekom declined after Chief Executive Timotheus Hoettges said a sale of the T-Mobile US unit is less likely in the near term.
Schroders jumped as the UK money manager increased its full-year dividend by 35% after posting a 41% rise in 2013 pre-tax profit to £507.8m.
Gemalto advanced as the maker of security chips and software predicted "double-digit expansion" of profit from operations and revenue at constant exchange rates
Bureau Veritas was up after the French goods-inspection company said sales and profitability will increase this year.
Balfour Beatty slumped as the UK construction company posted 2013 sales that missed market forecasts.
The euro rose 0.07% to $1.3742.
Brent crude climbed $0.019 to $107.780 per barrel, according to the ICE.