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European markets open lower after German and French GDP disappoint

Shock German contraction reignites concerns about euro zone recovery

European markets remained in the doldrums today as new figures showed the continued stagnation of the region's major economies.

Germany's output shrank by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter, while France experienced no growth over the same period amid wider signs that the crisis in Ukraine is weighing on the recovery of the 18 country eurozone.

Markets in Paris and Frankfurt were lower but the FTSE 100 Index held firm to stand nine points higher at 6665.4.

Property firms topped the risers board in London as British Land rose 13p to 720p - a gain of 2 per cent - and Land Securities lifted 18p to 1084p. There was also a decent session from supermarkets as Sainsbury's improved 2.95p to 306.25p and Morrisons rose 1p to 170.1p.

Outside the top flight, shares in Balfour Beatty and Carillion were both higher on hopes that the two companies were closer to a £3 billion merger.

Carillion stepped up the pressure on Balfour's board by offering an additional 8.5p a share dividend to investors and promising £175 million a year in cost savings from the combination by 2016.

Carillion, which said it continues to believe in the "powerful strategic logic and financial benefits of a merger", rose 8.95p to 328.95p after it also presented half-year results showing a 5 per cent rise in profits to £67.5 million. Balfour shares were 4.25p higher at 240.75p.

Additional reporting PA