- Eurozone consumer confidence report out
- EU remains divided on Russia sanctions
- Fitch cuts outlook on Russia
- US Fed policymakers to speak
FTSE 100: 0.19%
CAC 40: 0.24%
FTSE MIB: 0.22%
IBEX 35: 0.19%
Stoxx 600: 0.17%
European stocks gained ahead of the release of a report which may show Eurozone consumer confidence will have improved this month.
The sentiment index for consumer confidence in March is expected to rise to -12.3 in March from -12.7 previously.
It will be an otherwise quiet day of economic data releases with attention turning to the situation in Crimea.
US President Obama announced the extension of visa bans and asset freezes in Moscow after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty on Tuesday annexing Crimea from Ukraine to join Russia.
European Union (EU) leaders met in Brussels yesterday to consider further sanctions against Russia. However, they remain divided over the most appropriate action to tackle the crisis.
"One thing that may be a concern to traders is suggestions by Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations that there are indications that Russia is preparing a military intervention in south and east Ukraine," said Alpari analyst, Craig Erlam.
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". The credit rating agency believes that the incorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation will likely lead to more sanctions from the US and the EU.
US Fed officials to speak
Four US Federal Reserve officials will speak on Friday, 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.
At her first press conference since taking over as Chair in February, Janet Yellen indicated that the central bank could raise interest rates in about six months after it ends quantitative easing. Ahead of this week's meeting, analysts had widely expected a rate hike to come towards the end of 2015.
Investors will be watching comments from Fed policymakers today to see if they have anything to say about the potential increase in interest rates.
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.
Ericsson dropped as UBS offered 20.6m class B shares in the maker of network equipment on behalf of an undisclosed institutional shareholder, according to terms obtained by Bloomberg.
The euro rose 0.4% to $1.3784.
Brent crude futures increased $0.169 to $106.630 per barrel, according to the ICE.