LONDON (TheDeal) -- European stock indices were mixed on Thursday, with core eurozone indices helped by a bigger-than-expected decline in German joblessness amid earnings reports from some of the region's largest companies.
While the German unemployment rate was unchanged in February, as expected, at 6.5%, the ranks of jobless shrank by 20,000, double consensus forecasts. Together with better-than-expected GfK consumer confidence figures for the German market, the data stoked confidence in the eurozone economy.
In London, the FTSE 100 edged down 0.04% to 6,932.64. In Frankfurt, the DAX was up 0.13% at 11,224.78, and in Paris, the CAC 40 rose 0.21% to 4,892.59.
In London, Standard Chartered (SCBFF) was up almost 2% as the bank announced the long-anticipated exit of CEO Peter Sands, whose credit-crisis-defying halo was abruptly wrenched off last year as the institution's fortunes soured. He will be replaced by former JPMorgan Chase (JPM) investment banker Bill Winters in June. Standard Chartered Chairman John Peace will also go.
Over-50s travel and insurance services provider Saga was up well over 2%. A private equity-backed vehicle which held an IPO for the business last year said it will sell a 4% stake in a secondary offering at a price of 185 pence. The stock was trading at 189.5 pence early in London.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was down well over 3% as it posted its seventh annual consecutive loss.
And RSA Insurance (RSAIF) fell despite returning to the black for the full-year and resuming dividend payments.
In Frankfurt, Bayer (BAYRY) gained ground after pronouncing upbeat projections for 2015 profit growth. It expects core earnings per share to rise by a low-teens percentage, or about 3% after accounting for currency projections. The company led the gainers on the Eurostoxx 50.
Also in Frankfurt, insurance giant Allianz SE (AZSEY) was down more than 2% after posting falling fourth-quarter earnings linked to a Bill Gross-exit-related client outflows from its Pacific Investment Management unit and announcing a mildly disappointing dividend payout.
In Paris, GDF Suez (GDFZY) , the No. 2 Eurostoxx gainer, was up about 2% as it announced that restructuring measures will enable it to hold net profit steady in 2014 at between €3 billion and €3.3 billion ($3 billion and $3.7 billion), compared with €3.1 billion for 2014, despite declining oil and gas prices.
In Amsterdam, grocer Royal Ahold tumbled about 2% after the company expressed caution about the margins outlook within the Netherlands. Its figures showed net profit in the fourth quarter had edged up only slightly, though the results beat forecasts. It plans to buy back €500 million of shares.
In Brussels, leading brewer Anheuser Busch InBev (BUD) also slipped after reporting marginally higher fourth-quarter earnings thanks to the U.S. economic recovery, though the strong dollar eroded revenue elsewhere.
In Milan, devices maker Sorin (SORJF) rose about 19% after announcing a takeover by Cyberonics (CYBX) of Houston, to create a new U.K.-domiciled, and London and Nasdaq-listed entity with an equity value of about $3 billion.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed up 1.08% at 18,785.79.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng gained 0.50% to close at 24,902.06.