European Stocks Open Lower After Previous Session's Rally

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By Prasanth Aby Thomas | February 20, 2013 7:15 PM EST

European markets remained weak in the opening minutes of trade as investors paused to consolidate the previous session's gains.

The UK's FTSE 100 remained little changed and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.1 percent. Germany's DAX opened flat at 7,748.4 while the Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.2 percent.

The single currency picked up against the dollar, trading at about $1.34.

Markets had closed well in the green in the previous session as solid German economic sentiments data boosted the region's recovery hopes. The upbeat sentiments had extended across the Atlantic, as US stocks closed the previous session with strong gains.

Investors are awaiting the US Federal Reserve's January Open Market Committee meeting minutes, set for release later in the day for indications of the future of quantitative easing programme. December minutes had shown that Fed officials looked to restrict the QE3 by the year-end.

Bank of England's February meeting minutes are also set for release during the day. Investors will be looking to see whether officials will continue to bear inflationary pressures and currency weakness.

The closely-watched negotiations on caps to European's Union bankers' bonuses had hit a roadblock on the previous day after disagreements between the region's countries and the bloc's parliament. Talks are expected to resume next week.

Energy shares remain under the spotlight following a Reuters' report that indicated Saudi Arabia may increase its oil production to meet the surging Chinese demand.  Riyadh had slashed its output in the fourth-quarter, citing weak demand.

Asian stocks had closed higher earlier, with the MSCI's broadest index of stocks outside Japan soaring to its highest level in months as global market sentiments and improved Japanese exports boosted investor confidence.  

Japan's Nikkei gained 0.84 percent to end at 11468.28 while South Korea's benchmark KOSPI index climbed 1.95 percent to 2024.64. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.33 percent to 5098.70.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.60 percent to 2397.18. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.42 percent to 23240.31.

Official Japanese data released by the country's Ministry of Finance showed that exports from the world's third largest economy improved year on year, although trade deficit hit a record high. Shipments jumped for the first time in eight months, by 6.4 percent.

Despite the soaring trade deficit, the data underlined easing tensions with China, Japan's largest export market, as shipments to the Communist nation picked up 3 percent year-on- year. Sino-Japanese relations had taken an ugly twist in 2012's second half after a territorial dispute resulted in a boycott of Japanese goods in China.

The yen remained volatile during the day, declining against the dollar early in the Asian trading session, but picking up later as market players speculated on the government's monetary easing steps.  

In China, economic indicators released early in the day showed that foreign direct investments (FDI) to the world's second largest economy  fell for the eighth month. Although this has raised concerns on external investor sentiments, analysts suggest that foreign inflows will begin to pick up this year as global and Chinese economy strengthens.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that China may look to harden its property policies in March, with decisions such as a 20 percent national real estate tax and a new 17.6 percent capital gains tax. Concerns on the uncertainty in the matter had weighed on property stocks in the previous session.

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