- Eurozone Q4 GDP confirmed
- Eurozone retail sales increase
- Euro-area composite PMI rises
- US and Russia hold talks on Ukraine
FTSE 100: -0.56%
CAC 40: -0.35%
FTSE MIB: 0.22%
IBEX 35: 0.07%
Stoxx 600: -0.19%
European stocks were little changed after a mix of Eurozone data ahead of 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.
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.
Manufacturing led the upturn while Eurozone companies benefited from strengthening market conditions, the Markit report showed.
"The latest batch of data on the Eurozone provided rather mixed signals for the European Central Bank ahead of its Governing Council meeting on Thursday," Capital Economics said. "But we still think more policy action is needed and, on balance, likely."
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 indicated that the central bank would consider taking action at its March meeting following the release of more comprehensive data, including economic forecasts.
"While the firmer-than-expected euro area February inflation data reduced the market expectation for ECB action at this meeting, our economists continue to expect them to announce further easing by cutting refi rate by 15bp to 0.10% and the deposit rate by 10bp to -0.10% on the back of growing risk of a very prolonged period of low inflation," according to Barclays.
"While we think this will be a very close call, a combination of refi rate cut and negative deposit rate would likely trigger a knee-jerk EUR selling, in our view."
This afternoon's attention will turn to the release of US data including mortgage applications, ISM's non-manufacturing composite, and ADP's employment report. The Federal Reserve will also release its Beige Book.
Ukraine diplomacy talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are set to hold diplomacy talks in Paris today to address tensions in Ukraine.
Russia has been accused of deploying troops into the Ukraine's Crimea region, which the US called an "act of aggression".
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the claims yesterday, saying they were local self-defence forces to protect bases from "nationalists" and "anti-Semites".
He said there was no immediate need to invade Ukraine. Putin also said ousted former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych had asked Russia to send troops across the border to protect civilians.
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.
Adidas declined after forecasting results this year would be hurt by currency effects.
The euro fell 0.20% to $1.3715.
Brent crude futures slipped $0.608 to $108.640 per barrel, according to the ICE.