- European stocks were steady to lower on Thursday, as concerns over ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine continued to weigh on sentiment, while investors eyed the release of German economic reports later in the day.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 slipped 0.11%, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.22%, while Germany’s DAX 30 inched up 0.04%.

Investors remained cautious amid reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 150,000 Russian troops to begin military exercises in central and western Russia, near the border with Ukraine.

The move prompted the United States to warn Russia that it would be a "grave mistake" to intervene militarily.

Market participants were also looking ahead to testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen later Thursday, after a recent spate of disappointing U.S. economic indicators raised some doubts over whether the central bank will maintain the current pace of reductions to its stimulus program.

Financial stocks were mixed, as BNP Paribas dipped 0.05% and Societe Generale added 0.10% in France, while Germany''s Deutsche Bank declined 0.68%.

Among peripheral lenders, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo rose 0.39% and 0.50% respectively, while in Spain, Banco Santander added 0.27% and BBVA slid 0.41%.

Elsewhere, Allianz, Europe’s biggest insurer, plummeted 2.41% after saying it will increase its dividend as fourth-quarter profit rose 1%, missing analysts’ estimates.

In London, FTSE 100 eased up 0.01%, as gains were capped by WPP''s sharp losses, down 5.82%, after the advertising company increased its share buyback program on Thursday.

Meanwhile, financial stocks were mixed, as Lloyds Banking edged up 0.14% and HSBC Holdings climbed 0.85%, while Barclays declined 0.65% and the Royal Bank of Scotland plunged 5.55%.

Earlier in the day, RBS posted its biggest full-year loss since receiving a government bailout in 2008, widening to about £9 billion in 2013 from £6.1 billion in the year-earlier period. The report came as Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan outlined plans to shrink its investment banking and overseas operations.

Mining stocks were also mixed, with Rio Tinto dipping 0.03% and BHP Billiton down 0.28%, while Glencore Xstrata and Vedanta Resources gained 0.26% and 0.95% respectively.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.21% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.21% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.33% increase.

Also Thursday, data showed that Spain''s economy grew by a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in the fourth quarter, down from a preliminary estimate of 0.3% growth. Spain''s economy expanded 0.1% in the preceding quarter.

Annualized GDP fell at a rate of 0.2%, downwardly revised from a preliminary estimate of 0.1% contraction.

Later in the day, Germany was to publish preliminary data on consumer inflation, as well as data on the change in the number of people unemployed. The U.S. was to release data on durable goods orders and the weekly report on initial jobless claims.

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