LONDON (The Deal) -- European stock indices edged higher Thursday ahead of decisions on interest rates by both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, while Asia markets ended the day predominantly in the green.
As frenzied international efforts to ease tensions in Ukraine continued, the regional government of Crimea said it planned to hold a referendum about whether to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia, which owned it until the 1950s.
In the U.K., a survey by lender Halifax found that monthly house-price growth in February more than doubled to 2.4%, with prices up 7.9% in the year, and both indicators well above expectations. The Bank of England has hinted that it won't raise rates from historic lows anytime soon but an accumulation of such data may force its hand in order to curtail the risk of a real estate bubble developing and wreaking destruction on the wider economy.
In Frankfurt, where the ECB in November cut rates to 0.25%, policy makers are expected to hold rates unchanged. As always investors will be closely following comments from ECB President Mario Draghi at a subsequent press conference.In London, the FTSE edged up 0.09% to 6,781.75. Fund manager and insurer Aviva surged more than 9% after reporting above-forecast full-year results and saying it would restore bonuses to top management, a mark, investors felt, of the company's successful turnaround. Rival fund manager Schroders, which also posted full-year results, was up over 5%. In Frankfurt the DAX was up 0.23% at 9,564.13. Deutsche Telekom tumbled after a Bloomberg report that the telecom's CEO had told fellow board members the company doesn't expect to sell its 67% stake in T-Mobile US (TMUS), whose market value is just under $26 billion. Japan's SoftBank wants to merge the business with its majority-owned Sprint (S) unit but is facing opposition from the Federal Communications Commission. In Paris the CAC 40 climbed 0.59% to 4,417.31. Shares in Orange, the former France Telecom SA, rose almost 8% on relief that cost cuts appear to be alleviating the pressure on profit from competition from cut-price rival Iliad SA. Vivendi was little changed after it had received binding offers from telecoms investor Altice SA and from conglomerate Bouygues SA for its SFR wireless telecom unit. Bouygues said its offer valued the business at $19.9 billion before the synergies that would be generated from combining the business with its Bouygues Telecom affiliate. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed up 1.59% at 15,134.75. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong closed up 0.55% at 22,072.97. All Asian indices bar the S&P/ASX 200, which was down marginally, closed higher.