European Markets
European markets outside UK trade higher on 24 February. Reuters

European stock markets outside France and Italy opened lower on 24 February, ahead of the release of a report on German business confidence, and following an uninspiring handover from Asia where China jitters weighed on investor sentiment.

Markets outside the UK traded higher after the release of the German report.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index opened 0.2% lower to 335.56

Britain's FTSE 100 opened 0.1% lower.

France's CAC 40 opened flat.

Germany's DAX opened 0.4% lower.

Italy's FTSE MIB was trading 0.22% higher after opening lower.

Spain's IBEX 35 was trading 0.89% after opening flat.

German business confidence has improved more-than-expected so far this month, and has struck its highest level since July 2011, industry data showed on 24 February.

Ifo said its Business Climate Index rose to a seasonally adjusted 111.3 in February, above forecasts for 110.6 and up from a reading of 110.6 in January.

The Current Assessment Index rose to 114.4 this month, higher than a forecast for 112.8 and up from 112.4 in January.

The Business Expectations Index, which measures attitudes toward business prospects over the next six months, dipped to 108.3 this month from 108.9 in January, better than forecasts for a drop to 108.2.

Danske Bank said in a note to clients: "We have seen indications that the expected slowdown in H1 in the euro area and the US could be more significant than feared and consequently, central bank easing is likely to come back on the agenda again - not least following last week's unexpected ease by the Bank of Japan. Currently we see heightened risks to both legs in our case for a lower EUR/USD towards 1.26 in 12 months' time; namely continued Fed tapering and further ECB easing.

"While some of the weakness in the US economy could be weather-related, not all can be explained by it. However, so far we see no indications that FOMC members are about to change their views on the robustness of the US economic recovery and thus, for now, it appears that the Fed will continue its path for tapering. However, this could easily change if US data continue to disappoint. In respect of the ECB, we still expect the central bank to ease further, even though comments from Mario Draghi indicate that the bar for further easing has been raised.

"Our economists still see a deposit rate cut into negative territory as the most likely move. We still think that persistently low inflation in the euro-zone will be the main driver behind further easing. However, last week also showed that European PMIs might have peaked in January, which puts pressure on the ECB to act and thus the release of German IFO survey data might prove to be directional for EUR/USD today."

In Asia

India's BSE Sensex was trading 0.54% higher on 24 February.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended 0.80% lower while the Shanghai Composite closed 1.75% lower

The Japanese Nikkei 225 finished 0.19% lower while South Korea's Kospi finished 0.45% lower.

However, the Australian ASX ended 0.03% higher.

Asian markets outside Mumbai and Australia traded lower on Monday, and followed a lackluster handover from Wall Street last week, as downbeat China data and concerns about the impact of the US Federal Reserve's stimulus taper weighed down on regional sentiment.

Data from China showed home prices eased for the first time in 14 months in January,

New home prices in China rose 9.6% in January, suggesting that Beijing's efforts to tame the red-hot property market could be yielding results.

Meanwhile, local media reports said that several banks could have stopped lending to real estate firms owing to rising risk, reported Reuters, adding that several banks have issued denials.

Together, the news pulled down Chinese property stocks.

In Shanghai, Poly Real Estate and China Merchants Property tanked over 8% while rival Gemdale fell over 7%.

Minsheng Bank dropped 3.3%. ICBC and Bank of China lost over 2%

In Seoul, financial services provider Chungho ComNet tanked 15%.

Earlier, at a meeting in Sydney, the Group of 20 major economies announced their target to add $2tn (£1.2tn, €1.5tn) to the global economy over a five-year period, in line with the recent recovery following the financial crisis. The G20 group represents about 85% of the global economy.

The group noted that growth strengthened in the US, the UK and Japan alongside continued solid growth in China and many emerging market economies and the resumption of growth in the euro area.

Nevertheless, a strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the global economy is still far away, according to a communiqué released at the end of the two-day meeting.

The current economic growth is still below the rates needed to ensure required employment levels, and the recent volatility in financial markets, high levels of public debt and continuing global imbalances are threatening sustainable growth, it added.

Wall Street Down

On Wall Street, indices ended lower on 21 February in the wake of downbeat US housing market data.

The Dow finished 29.93 points, or 0.2%, lower at 16,103.30 points. The index declined 0.3% for the week ending 22 February.

The S&P 500 ended 3.53 points, or 0.2%, lower at 1,836.25 and finished 0.1% lower for the week as a whole.

The Nasdaq closed 4.13 points, or 0.1%, lower at 4,263.41. The index gained 0.5% for the week.

Data showed that sales of existing homes fell to their lowest in more than a year in January. The National Association of Realtors said sales fell 5.1% in January versus a forecast for a 3.5% drop.

Credit Agricole CIB said in a note to clients: "... Unfortunately this week's US data releases are unlikely to be particularly helpful in shaking off growth worries. Although February consumer confidence is likely to be unchanged at a relatively high reading (tomorrow) declines in new homes sales (Wednesday) and durable goods orders (Thursday) in January will not bode well while a revision lower to US Q4 GDP (Friday) will highlight a slower pace of growth momentum at the end of last year than previously recorded."

"The data is likely to be bond friendly helping to cap gains in Treasury yields. Nonetheless, the message from a plethora of Fed speakers on tap this week will likely be one of continued willingness to maintain the current pace of tapering, with recent and current weakness in economic data being shaken off as bad weather related."