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European markets steady but cautious

Friday, March 21 08:24:44

European shares were steady in early trade today, with tensions over the crisis in Crimea rising after Washington announced sanctions against some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies.

At 0803 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.01 percent at 1,306.04 points.

Washington raised the stakes in the East-West confrontation on Thursday by extending visa bans and asset freezes into Putin's inner circle.

Credit rating agency Fitch revised the outlook on Russia's long-term foreign and local currency rating to "negative" from "stable" while keeping the rating at 'BBB'.

For a list of European blue-chips with the biggest exposure to Russia, click:

"Investors are rattled by the tensions in Ukraine as well as potential credit downgrades of Russia, and the overall sentiment remains negative," said Guillaume Dumans, co-head of research firm 2Bremans. ( C ) Reuters