LONDON (The Deal) -- European stocks fell and Asian stocks were mixed on Wednesday as the conflict in Ukraine and ensuing row between Russian and Western governments escalated and Chinese manufacturing data pointed to economic weakness.
The U.S. said it plans to start military drills in Eastern Europe in support of the West-leaning government in Ukraine, which is fighting opponents in the east of the country after it overthrew pro-Russian leaders in March.
In China, HSBC/Markit's Purchasing Managers' index of the manufacturing sector rose to 48.3 in April from 48.0, holding defiantly in the below-50 territory which signals a contraction.
Corresponding data from Markit for the eurozone in April came in slightly ahead of expectations at 53.3, up from 53.0 the month before.
Bank of England minutes showed policy makers at the last meeting were united in their decision to leave rates at 0.50%.
In London, the FTSE was down marginally at 6,679.11. In Frankfurt, the DAX slid 0.23% to9,578.48 and in Paris, the CAC 40 ceded 0.35% to stand at 4,468.48 by late morning.
In London, Associated British Foods soared after posting first-half results that beat estimates. Pretax profit rose 4% to 468 million pounds, despite a 2% decline in revenue to 6.2 billion pounds as sugar sales tumbled. The biggest part of ABF's business is its Primark discount clothing chain, where sales rose 14% and profit climbed 26%. ABF plans to open Primark stores in northeast of the U.S., starting with a store in the center of Boston.
In Paris, Publicis Groupe slid after a Financial Times interview with the CEO of Omnicom Group (OMC) stoked concern the advertising giants won't be able to close their planned merger because several European tax authorities, as well as Chinese antitrust regulators, have yet to sign off on the July agreement.
In Stockholm, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson's (ERIC) shares were down more than 4% after the wireless equipment maker posted a 9% first-quarter sales decline to 47.5 billion Swedish kronor ($7.2 billion), mainly because of a slump in North America. But profit rose 41% to Skr1.7 billion as the company chased higher margin business.
Swedish truckmaker Scania fell more than 4% to a two-month low after a shareholder said majority owner Volkswagen's 6.7 billion euros ($9.3 billion) buyout offer for the outstanding shares was too low. An independent Scania committee assessing the bid earlier delivered the same verdict, while VW has refused to lift its offer.
In Tokyo the Nikkei closed up almost 1.1% at 14,546.27.