LONDON (The Deal) -- A raft of predominantly negative corporate news kept European indices in the doldrums on Thursday as tensions in Ukraine escalated and investors looked to a testimony later Thursday from Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen for reasons to be cheerful.
In Ukraine, reports said pro-Russia fighters had stormed the Crimea parliament and government buildings, fueling fears of a civil war between the region and Europe-leaning western Ukraine that could draw in Russia and potentially also the U.S. and European Union.
German government figures showed unemployment in February fell for the third month, with the decline greater than expectations. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.8%.
Yellen will be addressing a Senate committee from 10 a.m. EST on Thursday.
In London, the FTSE 100 by mid-morning was down 0.88% at 6,739.30, while in Frankfurt the DAX tumbled 1.24% to 9,541.77 and in France the CAC 40 dropped 0.75% to 4,364.11.
In London, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) plunged after posting its largest loss since its bailout by the government in the fall of 2008. The Edinburgh bank, which is more than 80% owned by the state, reported a pretax loss of 8.5 billion pounds ($14.1 billion), wider than a loss of 5.9 billion pounds a year ago because of compensation to clients for various missteps and a raft of writedowns, legal and regulatory costs.
It also announced yet another restructuring program to focus on vanilla retail and business banking and said it will cut its investment banking operations even further. Late Wednesday it said it would sell its final 28.2% stake in Direct Line Insurance Group to fulfil a condition of the European Commission's approval of its state bailout. Direct Line shares were little changed on Thursday.