- Russia finalises treaty on Crimea
- Eurozone consumer confidence figures out
- UK public sector debt grows
- US Fed officials due to speak
FTSE 100: 0.41%
CAC 40: 0.43%
FTSE MIB: 0.02%
IBEX 35: 0.21%
Stoxx 600: 0.33%
European stocks gained as the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on 12 more Russian officials after Moscow finalised a treaty accepting Crimea as a sovereign state.
The treaty follows a referendum on Sunday which showed Crimea voted in favour of leaving Ukraine and re-joining Russia.
The EU said any further steps by Russia to destabilise Ukraine would have "far-reaching consequences". The 12 individuals to be targeted by the EU with sanctions will be named today. Earlier this week the EU announced asset freezes and travel bans against 21 individuals in Russia and Ukraine.
The US has also announced additional sanctions along with the extension of visa bans and asset freezes in Moscow.
Fitch Ratings yesterday decided to cut the outlook on Russia's credit rating to 'negative' from 'stable' due to the possible impact of economic sanctions.
For the moment, Fitch maintains the 'BBB' rating but warned that the downgrade in the outlook "reflects the potential impact of sanctions on Russia's economy and business environment".
Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's has affirmed Greece's sovereign credit rating as 'B-/B' rating and given it a 'stable' outlook, citing an improving economy.
The ratings agency said that the European nation has started to rebalance thanks to the government's commitment to fiscal and structural reforms.
Elsewhere in Europe, a report on Eurozone consumer confidence at 15:00 GMT is expected to show an improvement this month.
The sentiment index for consumer confidence in March is expected to rise to -12.3 in March from -12.7 previously.
UK public sector debt
In the UK, the public sector's net borrowing requirement for February printed at £9.3bn after a revised reading of £5bn for the month before. Analyst had expected £8.6bn.
It came as a result of a current budget deficit of £6.5bn together with £2.8bn in net investment.
"Looking ahead, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast of a further drop in the underlying deficit to £95.5bn in 2014-15 could prove to be a bit pessimistic if the economy expands by around 3% as we expect," Capital Economics said.
"But the big picture is still that there is a very long way to go before the public finances are restored to full health."
Delivering the Budget 2014-15 on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne said while the country was moving towards a small surplus 2018-19 he believed the country still spends too much and borrows too much.
US Fed speakers
Four US Federal Reserve officials will speak today, two days after the central bank announced its latest policy decision.
James Bullard, Richard Fisher, Narayana Kocherlakota and Jeremy Stein will talk separately in the afternoon, potentially shedding further light behind the Fed's decision to cut asset purchases by $10bn a month to $55bn.
They may also elaborate on remarks from Fed Chair Janet Yellen that the central bank could raise interest rates in about six months after ending quantitative easing, which spooked markets yesterday.
Havas SA retreated after the French advertising agency posted 2013 profit that fell short of analysts' estimates.
Burberry slipped after Bank of America cut its rating of the luxury fashion retailer to 'neutral' from 'buy', citing currency headwinds.
Commerzbank gained after Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the German lender to 'overweight' from 'equal weight'.
Meggitt edged higher as UBS upgraded its rating on the aerospace and defence engineering company to 'buy' from 'neutral'.
Crest Nicolson slumped following news Deutsche Bank, its largest publicly disclosed shareholder, is selling as many as 16.5m shares
in the housebuilder.
The euro rose 0.15% to $1.3800.
Brent crude futures increased $0.449 to $106.930 per barrel, according to the ICE.