European stock markets zigzagged around the flat line on Monday, with disappointing Italian and French factory data largely offsetting optimism over the latest round of corporate news.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index moved 0.1% higher to close at 325.30, marking a fourth-straight day of gains.
The Bank of England?s new policy guidance and the first speech from the new superstar of global central banking, Janet Yellen, will also be closely watched.
Shares of L?Or?al SA ?gained 4.5% after Bloomberg reported late Friday that Nestle SA ??is looking into ways to reduce its $30 billion stake in the French cosmetics firm. Bloomberg cited people familiar with the matter. Nestl? shares closed down 0.1%. A representative from Nestl? declined to comment on the report.
Nokia Oyj ?climbed 2.8% after the phone maker settled all pending patent litigation with HTC. Under the agreement, HTC will make payments to Nokia, the Finnish company said.
Akzo Nobel NV ?gained 0.9% after Citigroup lifted the paints and coatings firm to buy from neutral. The analysts said Akzo Nobel is a ?compelling restructuring story where efforts are similar to the earlier course of actions, but intentions are solid, and the focus of management has shifted from defined cost-cutting to continuous improvement.?
Economic numbers weren?t as upbeat as the corporate news, however. Data from Italy showed industrial production in the country unexpectedly fell sharply in December, reversing three months of gains.
Meanwhile in France, industrial production fell more than expected in December, with steep drops in oil refining and automotive output.
The data came ahead of fourth-quarter euro-zone growth data out Friday , which are expected to show the region continued to improve at the end of 2013, although at a slow pace.
Investors were also looking ahead to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen?s first speech as Fed chief on Tuesday for any hints on the pace of tapering or signs that the central bank will hike interest rates in the near future. After a weak U.S. nonfarm-payrolls report last Friday ? the second lackluster jobs report in a row ? some analysts are speculating whether further cuts to the Fed?s bond-buying program could be put on hold.
?Markets are expected to be quite jumpy as she testifies to the House Financial Services Committee as her words will influence investors? decisions and could potential cause a frenzy in global markets,? said Sam Fox from financial sales at Spreadex in a note.
European indexes closed mixed, with France?s CAC 40 index ?to 4,237.13, and Germany?s DAX 30 index down 0.1% to 9,289.86. The U.K.?s FTSE 100 index ?to 6,591.55.
Mining firms helped the London benchmark, as metals prices mostly advanced. Shares of Fresnillo PLC gained 8.8%, Randgold Resources Ltd. added 2.4% and BHP Billiton PLC ??rose 0.6%.
Deutsche Telekom AG lost 0.9% after saying it has acquired the outstanding 39.23% stake of T-Mobile Czech Republic for 800 million euros ($1.09 billion) as a ?natural step to full ownership?.
Securitas AB dropped 1.5% after the Swedish security-services firm posted fourth-quarter earnings below analyst expectations.