Defensive stocks are in demand in Europe as the region’s main equities indices tread water, with attention focused on the growing tensions over Ukraine.

Energy and telecoms stocks are the most buoyant as investors’ caution also follows more lacklustre economic data from China.

The international FTSE Eurofirst 300 was down 0.2 per cent at 1,349.05.

In Frankfurt, the Xetra Dax 30 was 0.1 per cent weaker at 9,542.62. BASF was the biggest faller, down 3 per cent at €81.5 as it traded without rights to its latest dividend payment.

The CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.3 per cent at 4,446.36, with Airbus its biggest single faller – down 1.2 per cent at €48.65. Renault was 1 per cent lower at €69.3.

The French index’s overall losses were being offset by utilities. Orange, the telecoms provider, was up 0.8 per cent and food retailer Carrefour rose 0.3 per cent to €29.

Italian banks were the centre of attention in Milan, on fresh capital-raising moves.

Shares in Banca Popolare di Milano were up 0.4 per cent, having come off opening gains of more than 5 per cent, after it launched a €500m rights issue, pricing the new stock at €0.43 and offering nine new shares for every 25 held by investors.

Meanwhile, shares in Banca Monte dei Paschi were down 3.4 per cent at €23.11 after it started a reverse stock split in the run-up to its €5bn capital increase.

The bank’s capital raising, originally thought to amount to about €3bn, comes as it seeks to pay back the €4.1bn it owes the Italian government after its bailout.

In Madrid, the Ibex 35 was up 0.2 per cent at 10,494.90 while in Milan, the FTSE MIB rose 0.1 per cent to 21,810.88.

With London’s stock markets closed for a public holiday, volumes are expected to be lighter throughout the day.

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