- UK Budget unveiled
- BoE unanimous on policy, minutes show
- UK unemployment rate unchanged
- EU to tackle Ukraine at summit
FTSE 100: -0.20%
CAC 40: -0.04%
FTSE MIB: -0.13%
IBEX 35: 0.30%
Stoxx 600: 0.06%
European stocks were little changed as investors awaited the release of the UK Budget and the Federal Reserve's policy decision.
UK Chancellor George Osborne will deliver his fifth Budget at 12:30 GMT which he has promised is designed for a "resilient economy".
Analysts widely expect that it will be a political affair in trying to sway voters with tax cuts ahead of the General Elections in 2015.
Earlier in the UK, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) released its meeting minutes which showed policymakers were unanimous in keeping the Bank rate and leaving the stock of asset purchases unchanged.
Minutes of the meeting held on March 5th and 6th showed that UK economic recovery was broader than previously thought.
The MPC's analysis of recent economic growth suggested at the component level that the recovery over the past year "might not have been as reliant on the household sector as it had previously appeared", with "initial signs that the anticipated broadening from household to business spending might have already begun".
Unemployment was thought "quite likely" to fall to 7% during the following few months.
Separately, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the UK unemployment rate remained unchanged in the three months to January at 7.2%. The consensus estimate had been for a reading of 7.1%.
Jobless claims count fell by 34,600 in February, beating forecasts for a 25,000 decrease. They fell 33,900 in January.
In the US, the Federal Reserve will wrap up its two-day policy meeting later today.
Analysts expect the central bank will slash monthly bond purchases by a further $10bn to $55bn and keep its benchmark rate at 0.25%. The meeting will be followed up with a press conference with Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
EU summit to tackle Ukraine
The European Union (EU) heads of state are preparing to gather for a two-day meeting of the European Council in Brussels tomorrow when they will discuss the situation in Ukraine.
A leaked draft document of the summit read: "In the light of events, the European Council will assess the situation in Europe's Eastern neighbourhood, in particular in Ukraine, and may also address other specific foreign policy issues."
However, further details on the next possible steps to be taken were absent.
European leaders are said to be divided on how to punish Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea from Ukraine.
Following Sunday's referendum, which saw Crimean locals vote overwhelmingly to join Russia, Putin and other officials moved to formally accept the accession, defying sanctions imposed by European Union (EU) and US leaders yesterday who labelled the vote as illegal.
BMW edged higher after the carmaker said it predicts pre-tax profit will rise this year.
Inditex gained after posting 2013 profit in line with analysts' estimates.
Ophir Energy slumped after saying it failed to encounter significant hydrocarbons at the Padouck Deep-1 well in Gabon.
Antofagasta dropped after Deutsche Bank downgraded the copper producer to 'sell' from 'hold'.
Brenntag advanced after the largest distributor of chemicals s proposed a three-for-one stock split and announced a dividend payout that exceeded analysts' forecasts.
Barclays rallied following reports the bank plans to sell its index business.
Aurubis climbed as Goldman Sachs added the supplier of precision rolled copper to its conviction list after upgrading it to 'buy' from 'neutral'.
The euro dropped 0.09% to $1.3922.
Brent crude futures fell $0.593 to $106.160 per barrel, according to the ICE.