European stocks edged lower in cautious trading ahead of ECB decision

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European stocks edged lower in cautious trading ahead of ECB decision
Credit: © Reuters.

Investing.com - European stock markets slipped lower Thursday, as investors cautiously awaited the news from the latest policy-setting meeting from the European Central Bank.

At 03:05 ET (08:05 GMT), the DAX index in Germany traded 0.3% lower, the CAC 40 in France traded down 0.2% and the FTSE 100 in the U.K. fell 0.2%.

ECB meeting in focus

Frankfurt will be the center of attention in Europe Thursday, as ECB policymakers gather to decide monetary policy for the eurozone as a whole. 

While the central bank is virtually certain to keep interest rates at record highs at this meeting, there remains uncertainty over when the officials will decide that inflation is no longer an issue and they can start cutting rates in an attempt to boost growth in the bloc.

With this in mind, President Christine Lagarde 's post-meeting news conference will be of particular interest.

Markets had expected a cut as soon as April, but have been dialing back pricing over the past few weeks as policymakers have pushed back on this aggressive pricing, particularly after the December eurozone CPI climbed to 2.9% from 2.4% the prior month.

That said, the eurozone was probably in recession last quarter and got off to a slow start in January, likely making the current period the sixth straight quarter with broadly flat or negative growth. 

The German Ifo business climate index for January is due later in the session, and comes a day after the institute downgraded its 2024 economic growth forecast for Europe's largest economy.

Corporate earnings continue to flow

In the corporate sector, the quarterly earnings season continued in full flow.

Givaudan (SIX: GIVN ) stock rose 0.5% after the Swiss fragrance and flavor maker reported 2023 core earnings in line with expectations, citing strong performance in its fragrances business despite a tough market environment.

Nokia (HE: NOKIA ) stock rose 4.7% after the Finnish telecom equipment supplier beat fourth-quarter expectations even while reporting a 27% drop in operating profit, hurt by lower demand for 5G gear across North America and a slowdown in markets such as India.

SEB (ST: SEBa ) stock fell 1.4% after the Swedish bank reported fourth-quarter net profit marginally below market expectations, although losses have been mitigated by the proposal of a bigger than expected annual shareholder payout in the form of dividends.

Crude gains after large U.S. inventories draw

Oil prices climbed higher Thursday, boosted by U.S. crude inventories falling more than expected last week as well as stimulus measures from top importer China.

By 03:05 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.7% higher at $75.64 a barrel, while the Brent contract climbed 0.6% to $80.55 a barrel, trading once more above the widely-watched $80 a barrel level. 

U.S. crude stockpiles tumbled by a hefty 9.2 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration , but this figure was impacted by the harsh winter weather which shut in refineries and kept motorists off the road.

U.S. crude output fell from a record 13.3 million barrels per day two weeks ago to a five-month low of 12.3 barrels per day last week.

Elsewhere, the People’s Bank of China on Wednesday unexpectedly cut reserve requirements for local banks, freeing up more liquidity in another attempt to foster economic growth in the world’s largest oil importer.

Additionally, gold futures traded largely flat at $2,015.90/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.0888.

 

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