Investing.com - European stocks remained sharply higher on Tuesday, as a recent string of disappointing economic reports from the euro zone fuelled expectations for a rate cut by the European Central Bank.
During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 rallied 1.57%, France's CAC 40 rallied 1.35%, while Germany's DAX 30 jumped 1.67%.
In a report, Markit research group said that Spain's service sector purchasing managers' index fell to 44.7 in February from a reading of 47 the previous month, compared to expectations for a decline to 46.
Separately, Markit said Italy's services PMI ticked down to 43.6 last month, in line with expectations, from a reading of 43.9 in January.
The data came amid concerns that Italy will be unable to pass structural reforms and austerity measures as the country edged closer to fresh elections after inconclusive elections last week.
Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale rallied 1.74% and 3.07%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank climbed 1.60% and 0.57% respectively.
Peripheral lenders added to gains, with Spanish banks BBVA and Banco Santander advancing 0.55% and 1.22%, while Italy's Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo surged 2.36% and 2.41%.
Elsewhere, Deutsche Post soared 4.88% after Europe's biggest postal service said fourth-quarter net income amounted to EUR542 million, topping analysts' estimates.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 advanced 0.82%, boosted by sharp gains in mining stocks and as data showed that the U.K. services PMI unexpectedly rose to a five-month high in February.
Copper producers posted strong gains, led by Xstrata, up 3.89%, while rival Kazakhmys surged 1.08%.
Glencore, which is seeking to buy Xstrata, was up 2.99% after posting full-year adjusted net income of USD3.06 billion.
Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were also on the upside, with shares rallying 1.99% and 2.37%, while Eurasian Natural Resources jumped 1.62%.
Meanwhile, U.K. lenders continued to track their European counterparts higher. HSBC Holdings added 0.30% and Barclays advanced 1.11%, while Lloyds Banking and the Royal Bank of Scotland saw shares surge 1.29% and 2.04% respectively.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.22% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.24% rise, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.30% increase.
Also Tuesday, data showed that Germany's services PMI rose to 54.7 in February, up from a preliminary reading of 54.1. The final French services PMI came in at 43.7, better than a preliminary estimate of 42.7.
The final euro zone services PMI rose to 47.9 from a preliminary reading of 47.3.
Later in the day, the U.S. Institute of Supply Management was to release a report on service sector activity.
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