- ECB and BoE announce policies
- IMF wants greater say in Greek banks
- EU considers sanctions against Russia
FTSE 100: 0.37%
CAC 40: 0.65%
FTSE MIB: 0.77%
IBEX 35: 0.91%
Stoxx 600: 0.51%
Stocks in the euro-area gained as investors awaited policy decisions from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BoE).
Economists are mixed on whether the ECB was change its policy today to address to low inflation and high unemployment in the Eurozone.
"We expect the ECB to ease monetary policy further today and to cut its policy interest rates again, but it is a very close call given the mixed signals from recent data flow," according to Barclays.
However, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch believe that the ECB is likely to hold fire until later meetings: "In our view, the ECB is not ready to fire a 'bazooka' in this week's meeting, despite very low inflation and rising deflation risks.
"[...] Looking ahead, we believe that the ECB is not worried about deflationary risks yet. However, the ECB might be pushed into action at the April meeting, or this summer, if inflation falls further," they said.
ECB President Mario Draghi has hinted at the possibility of enacting greater measures, saying he was awaiting more comprehensive data in March before making a decision.
He has noted the current rate of inflation, at 0.8% , was well below the 2% target and will remain low for a "protracted period of time". Unemployment also remains at a 12% high.
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 IMF also wants a greater say in the fate of Greek banks as it fears the ECB is being too lenient on them, sources told Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, the BoE holds its meeting today, and analyst expect the central bank will maintain its policy by keeping interest rates at 0.5% and asset purchases at £375bn.
Governor Mark Carney last month switched the Bank's forward guidance on interest rates to reflect an unexpectedly fast pick-up in UK employment.
Last year the BoE vowed to keep interest rates low until unemployment falls to 7% but a sooner-than-anticipated drop towards the threshold prompted Carney to change the guidance to include a wider range of indicators including spare capacity in the economy.
In the US later on will be the release of reports on weekly jobless claims and factory orders.
EU assess Ukraine sanctions
European Union (EU) leaders will weigh sanctions to address the Ukraine crisis at an emergency meeting today.
Officials in the EU will consider the repercussions for Russia after the country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to attend a meeting with his Ukranian counterpart in Paris that was recommended by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The US and the EU are among Western nations pursuing diplomacy efforts in an effort to curb the turmoil in the Ukraine. They are also threatening Russia with sanctions over its military intervention in Crimea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that while he sees no immediate need to use force in southeastern Ukraine, he stands ready to protect ethnic Russians. He said former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted after violent protests, had requested troops in Crimea.
Vivendi gained after saying it received two bids for the French phone unit SFR it was planning to spin off.
Orange edged higher after the French phone forecast 2014 earnings that exceeded market expectations.
Deutshe Telekom declined after Chief Executive Timotheus Hoettges said a sale of the T-Mobile US unit is less likely in the near term.
Gemalto advanced as the maker of security chips and software predicted "double-digit expansion" of profit from operations and revenue at constant exchange rates
The euro fell 0.04% to $1.3727.
Brent crude futures rose $0.130 to $107.900 per barrel, according to the ICE.