European Stocks Slip Ahead of Yellen Speech

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets were seeing a slow start on Friday as the world waits for Janet Yellen's remarks at Jackson Hole, Wyo., at 10 a.m. EDT. What will she say about employment? What will it mean for U.S. interest rates?

Across the region, banks were among the risers, despite the massive fine levied in the U.S. Thursday on Bank of America (BAC) , although Austria's Raiffeisen Bank continued to be dragged down by worries over its Eastern European business.

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In London, RSA Insurance dipped and then recovered, to be up 0.14% by mid-morning at 437.00 pence, on news of the 135 million pounds ($215.6 million) sale of its Hong Kong and Singapore business to Allied World Assurance.

Electra Private Equity Trust, a listed private-equity investor, was up 0.56% at 2,685 pence, after New York activist investor Edward Bramson, who has taken a 19% stake in the company through his Sherbourne Investments vehicle, demanded an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to shake up its board. Bramson wants two seats for himself and a lieutenant and wants to dump director Geoffrey Cullinan. So far Electra has resisted his demands. But it has to call the general meeting under U.K. rules.

In Paris, Electricite de France was down 1.3% at 24.2 euros after its British subsidiary EDF Energy was hit with a fine of almost $5 million for failing to handle customer complaints properly. But in Frankfurt, another energy company RWE, rose, but only briefly, on news that the German government has given the green light for the 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) sale of its oil and gas exploration subsidiary DEA to a group of investors around the Russian oligarch Michail Fridman.

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