Europe Markets

Europe shares close higher for second day on Putin comments


European stocks closed higher for a second consecutive day on Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin calmed markets by saying there was no need to divide Ukraine further.

Putin speech watched

The pan-European provisionally closed higher by 0.7 percent at 1,306.09 points, having received a midday bounce after trading lower for much of the morning. Putin said he did not want another Ukraine split, suggesting he was not considering military action to seize more of the country after approving plans to make Crimea part of Russia.

The news sent U.S. stocks higher, with shares across the Atlantic also responding the Commerce Department's report that housing starts were little changed last month, illustrating that the industry is stabilizing after harsh weather dented home building.

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday began a two-day policy-setting session, with the central bank expected to announce that it would continue tapering asset purchases on Wednesday.

(Read more: Yellen's mediadebut: Plenty at stake politically)

European stocks started the day lower ahead of Putin's speech. However, the week so far has seen investors respond positively to the non-violent aftermath of the referendum in Crimea at the weekend. The FTSEurofirst is, however, down about 1 percent so far in 2014, having risen by 16 percent last year.

On Monday, U.S. and EU slapped 11 sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian officials and on Tuesday, Putin addressed Russia's parliament, showing his intent on making Crimea part of the Russian Federation. This came a day after signing a decree recognizing the region as a sovereign state.

(Read our live blog: Putin: Crimea as part of Ukraine a 'shocking injustice' )

However, despite Tuesday's gains, there were still concern over future developments in Crimea. A Ukrainian officer was wounded in a shooting on the outskirts of Simferopol, Crimea on Tuesday, although it was unclear who was behind the incident.

Furthermore, Ukraine's prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea was now entering a "military stage," according to the Interfax news agency.

German court rules on ESM

In Germany, the constitutional court ruled that the European bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, was in line with the country's constitution. The ruling removes uncertainty surrounding the new defense mechanism for the euro zone.

(Read more: German court says euro zone's crisis fund is legal)

In Asia equity markets rose on Tuesday, stabilizing after recent volatility. On Wall Street, the snapped a five-session losing streak, posting its best one-day gain in two weeks, and focus now turns to the Fed's monetary policy meeting.

(Read more: Stocks end higher as Ukraine tensions abate; Dow derails loss streak)

Is Russia preparing for more military action in Ukraine?

Europe car sales continue turnaround

On the data front, the widely-watched German ZEW economic sentiment index for March came in at 46.6 versus 55.7 in February, with the research institute citing investor concern over Russia and Ukraine. Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected a figure of 53.0. Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist at ING based in Brussels, said the index showed the German economy looked bright at present, but that the outlook was "darkening."

Meanwhile, car sales in Europe continued to show strong growth in February, posting a 7.6 percent increase from the same period in 2013, according to an industry body.

Data from the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association (ACEA) on Tuesday showed a sixth consecutive monthly rise for new passenger car registrations in the 28 members of the European Union. This was a monthly increase of 8.0 percent. Shares of French car makers and closed higher by around 3.6 and 3 percent respectively.

(Read more: European car sales up 7.6% in sixth monthly rise)

Elsewhere in Europe, British online fashion store saw shares hit a five-year low after the firm announced plans to increase investment in its warehouses and IT systems to meet demand, while putting short-term profits on the back foot. Shares dipped 8.3 percent at close; however, ASOS shares have seen rallies of over 100 percent in the previous two years of trading.

U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury's reported a drop in sales in the final quarter of 2013, ending the group's nine straight years of sales growth, and warned the outlook for customers would continue to remain challenging in the year ahead; shares, however, rose by around 0.8 percent.

Shares of truckmaker slipped 2 percent after its board committee recommended the rejection of a bid by to its shareholders. The German car maker had made an approach to minority shareholders to buy up the rest of the stake in the firm that it didn't already own.

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