European stocks

European stocks remained mixed in the opening minutes of trade as investors awaited further US economic data, which could underscore global recovery optimism.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index tracking the region's blue-chip stocks gained 0.1 percent to 1,208.8.

The UK's FTSE 100 remained little changed while Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent. Spain's IBEX and France's CAC-40 eased 0.2 and 0.1 percent respectively.

In Italy, the FTSE MIB added 0.5 percent.

The single currency firmed against the dollar, trading at about $1.30.

The European Union summit is continuing in Brussels, with leaders discussing the region's austerity policies, labour market concerns and options on easing the budget rules for nations such as Italy and France.

The issue of Cyprus's bailout, which is not part of the summit's main agenda, will be taken up by the region's finance ministers at a separate meeting later in the day.  According to Reuters, EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials have been working overnight on an outline of a bailout programme, which will be presented to financial experts in the morning.

Sentiments appear dominated by further US indicators set for release during the day, which could underscore recovery optimism in the world's top economy. After recent upbeat retail sales figures, consumer price figures are expected to follow suit, helped by an increase in fuel costs. Other data expected includes industrial output and capital utilisation.

Eurozone inflation data is also set for release early in the day, which is expected to disappoint, further underscoring the region's weak conditions.

Most Asian markets had ended higher earlier as the Japanese parliament approved former Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda as the next Bank of Japan governor.

The Nikkei closed 1.4 percent higher to 12560.9 while South Korea's KOSPI was down 0.8 percent to 1986.5 Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 1.7 percent to 5120.2.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.4 percent to 2278.4. Hong Kong's Hang Seng remained little changed at 22620.01 towards close.

Both the houses of the Japanese parliament have approved Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's nominations of Haruhiko Kuroda, Kikuo Iwata and Hiroshi Nakaso as the central bank heads.

Focus is now on the next policy meet, scheduled for early April. Kuroda, who is a vocal advocate of Abe-style monetary easing measures, is expected to take aggressive steps to meet the central bank's inflation target of 2 percent.

The Japanese government has also upgraded its domestic economic assessment suggesting that conditions were improving. The government has hiked its outlook for industrial output, corporate earnings, capital investment and the labour market in a monthly report released this week.  

Chinese stocks rebounded to close the week on a positive note after the benchmark index dropped to about a three-month low as the National People's Congress draws to a conclusion. The legislature has elected Li Keqiang as the country's premier and Xi Jinping as the president.