LONDON (TheDeal) -- European markets lacked direction Tuesday morning, as weakness in Asia and worries over Greece and deflation seemed to weigh on sentiment even as the economy in Germany showed continued strength.
Germany's unemployment fell to a record low of 6.4% in March, while retail sales were up 3.6% in February compared with a year earlier. But in the eurozone as a whole, unemployment remains high at 11.3%, slightly worse than the 11.2% economists were predicting.
Meanwhile in Britain, the picture was more mixed. The Office of National Statistics revised its fourth-quarter GDP growth figure for last year upwards from 0.5% to 0.6%, bringing annual growth up to 2.8% from 2.6%. But it also said that GDP per capita is still 1.2% below precrisis levels. And disposable income per head -- in other words what households are actually able to spend -- is still 5.1% below precrisis levels.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.59% at 6,850.91, while in Paris, the CAC 40 was down 0.05% at 5,081.17. In Frankfurt, the DAX was down 0.31% at 12,048.63, despite earlier signs of strength.
In London, home improvement group Kingfisher (KGFHY) topped the FTSE 100 leaderboard, rising 4.47% to 381.10 on news it plans to close around 60 stores in the U.K. and several loss-making outlets in Europe. New chief executive Veronique Laury has also announced she's doing a bit of home improvement around the company boardroom, reorganizing the company's individual businesses into one company and reassigning some top posts.
The announcement comes after Kingfisher was forced to walk away from a bid for competitor Mr Bricolage in France. But Kingfisher also announced that like-for-like sales edged up 0.5% over the year. It declared a dividend of 10 pence a share, despite falls in net profits -- down 19.3% to £573 million -- and sales, down 1.4% to £10.96 billion. The group's poor performance in France was also offset by better results in the U.K.
Swiss food and specialty bakery group Aryzta (ARZTF) dropped 3.53% to Sfr62.8 a share after an initial rise, on an announcement that it is taking a 49% stake in French specialty foods group Picard Surgelés for a total of €446.6 million ($480 million). It is funding the deal with the sale of more than half its 68% stake in Irish food group Origin Enterprises (ORENF) on the market for net proceeds of €400 million ($429 million).
Also in Switzerland, Compagnie Financiere Richemont fell 1.25% after confirming the sale of half its stake in British online upscale fashion retailer Net-a-Porter in an all-share swap with Italy's Yoox (YXOXF). Richemont will retain only 25% of the votes, so control goes to Yoox, which soared 9.53% to €25.3 a share.
In Asia, the last day of the quarter saw some profit taking and a dampening of expectations after the surge on Chinese markets earlier in the week. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 was down 1.05% at 19,206.99, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was up 0.18% at 24,900.89. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed off 1.02% at 3,747.90.