Spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE (.FTSE), Germany's DAX (.GDAXI) and France's CAC (.FCHI) to tip toe higher while the markets awaited fresh cues from the Middle East. Crude oil prices were lower due to the dollar's bounce and as investors reassessed the potential impact of the escalating conflict in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and allies carried out air strikes on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on Thursday. Excluding the effect of last year's sales tax increase, data released on Friday showed Japan's core consumer price index was flat in February compared with a year ago. U.S. crude (CLc1) was down 2.1 percent at $50.33 a barrel after jumping 4.5 percent overnight because of the military action in Yemen.
Oil prices fell more than $1 on Friday, after sharp gains in the previous session, as worries of a disruption to crude supplies due to Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in Yemen eased. Goldman Sachs said in note that the strikes in Yemen would have little effect on oil supplies as the country was only a small crude exporter and tankers could avoid passing its waters to reach their ports of destination. Brent crude (LCOc1) was at $58.18 a barrel at 0421 GMT, down $1. Oil jumped around 5 percent on Thursday, the biggest daily gain in a month, as air strikes in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies sparked fears that escalation of the Middle East battle could disrupt world crude supplies.
Fortune magazine cited the head of the world's largest technology corporation as saying he planned to donate his estimated $785 million fortune to charity - after paying for his 10-year-old nephew's college education. "You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripples for change," Cook told the magazine. Fortune estimated Cook's net worth, based on his holdings of Apple stock, at about $120 million. The 54-year-old CEO's revelation in Fortune's lengthy profile of him is an example of the increasingly public philanthropy of the world's richest people.