Investing.com - European stocks were little changed on Thursday, after positive euro zone retail sales data, as investors remained cautious ahead of the European Central Bank''s monthly policy statement, expected later in the trading session.
During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 added 0.16%, France’s CAC 40 inched 0.01% higher, while Germany’s DAX eased 0.02%
Eurostat said retail sales in the euro zone increased by 0.4% in February, compared to expectations for a 0.6% decline. Retail sales increased 1% in January, whose figure was revised down from a previously reported gain of 1.6%.
On Wednesday, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde urged the central bank to do more to combat low inflation in the region, warning that slow price growth could undermine the fragile global recovery.
Most investors expected the ECB to leave monetary policy on hold, after Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann said over the weekend that the euro zone is not in a deflationary cycle, and that the recent slowdown in inflation was due in large part to temporary factors, such as falls in food and energy prices.
Financial stocks turned mostly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) gained 0.72% and 0.39%, although Germany''s Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) tumbled 1.71% after being downgraded to "neutral" from "overweight" by JPMorgan Chase.
Among peripheral lenders, Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) and Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) jumped 1.25% and 1.50% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) and BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) rallied 1.32% and 1.86%.
Elsewhere, Vivendi (VIV.PAR) added 0.12% after the company said it blocked an attempt by a shareholder activist group to access sale documents regarding talks to sell its SFR phone business to billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 inched up 0.01%, still led by Tullow Oil (TLW.LSE), up 4.68% after announcing plans to offer $500 million in senior notes to generate funds in order to repay some of its debt.
BTG (BTG.LSE) added to gains, surging 3.14%, after the biotech company said annual sales will be near the top of its forecast range.
Meanwhile, financial stocks turned broadly lower. Barclays (BARC.LSE) fell 0.27% and Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) declined 0.43%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) shed 0.31%. HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) overperformed however, up 0.27%.
Mining stocks were also on the downside, as Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) dipped 0.04% and Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) edged down 0.16%, while Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) dropped 0.36% and Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) tumbled 1.92%.
Also in the U.K., data showed that the service sector continued to expand steadily in March, even though the rate of expansion was the slowest in nine months.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a moderately higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.09% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.06% uptick, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.08% gain.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish data on the trade balance, was well as the weekly report on initial jobless claims. In addition, the Institute of Supply Management was to publish a report service sector activity.
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