- European stocks extended gains on Tuesday, supported by the release of relatively positive euro zone data and after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank intends to keep interest rates low for an extended period.

During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 gained 0.45%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.78%, while Germany’s DAX climbed 0.57%.

Official data earlier showed that the unemployment rate in the euro zone remained unchanged at 12.0% in February, in line with expectations.

A separate report showed that the number of unemployed people in Germany declined by 12,000 in February, compared to expectations for a 10,000 drop. The number of unemployed people in January was revised to a 15,000 decline from a previously estimated 14,000 fall.

Equitiy markets found support after Fed Chair Yellen said that "considerable slack" still remained in the labor market and reiterated that the Fed’s commitment to economic stimulus will still be needed for some time.

Elsewhere, data showed that China’s official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for March rose to 50.3 from 50.2 in February. However, a separate report showed that China’s HSBC manufacturing PMI fell to 48, the weakest level in a year-and-a-half, from a final reading of 48.5 in February.

Financial stocks remained broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) rallied 1.86% and 2.61%, while Germany''s Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) and Commerzbank (CBKG.XETRA) jumped 1.21% and 1.61%.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy''s Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) and Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) gained 1.02% and 1.99% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) and BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) advanced 0.92% and 1.09%.

Elsewhere, Metso Oyj (MEO1V.HEL) soared 18.16% following reports Weir Group (WEIR.LSE) may be willing to pay as much as €30 a share for the Finnish supplier of technology, automation and services.

Alstom (ALSO.PAR) also still added to gains, up 6.96%, after the French maker of trains and power-generation equipment agreed to sell an auxiliary components unit to Triton for about €730 million.

In London, FTSE 100 climbed 0.52%, still led by Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN.LSE), whose shares surged 6%, after completing the acquisition of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Group and its related private equity fund management business.

Mining stocks also remained on the upside, as Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) rose 0.26% and Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) gained 0.72%, while rivals Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) and Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) jumped 1.05% and 2.63% respectively.

Earlier in the day, BHP Billiton said it is looking to simplify its operations to focus on iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum.

Among U.K. lenders, HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) inched up 0.04% and Barclays (BARC.LSE) advanced 0.73%, while Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) rallied 1.11% and 1.80%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a moderately higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.14% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.13% rise, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.03% uptick.

Later in the day, the Institute of Supply Management was to publish a report on U.S. manufacturing growth.

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