- European stocks were mixed to lower on Thursday, as investors remained cautious ahead of the European Central Bank''s monthly policy statement, expected later in the trading session.

During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.03%, France’s CAC 40 fell 0.12%, while Germany’s DAX slipped 0.10%.

Recent weak euro zone inflation data has added to pressure on the ECB to take steps to stave off the risk of deflation.

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 were broadly lower, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) slipped 0.22% and 0.04%, while Germany''s Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) tumbled 1.86% after being downgraded to "neutral" from "overweight" by JPMorgan Chase.

Among peripheral lenders, Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) and Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) dipped 0.04% and 0.05% respectively. Spanish banks BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) and Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) overperformed on the other hand, rising 0.45% and 0.72%.

Elsewhere, Vivendi (VIV.PAR) added 0.22% 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 added 0.09%, led by Tullow Oil, up 3.75% 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 3.33%, after the biotech company said annual sales will be near the top of its forecast range.

Meanwhile, financial stocks were mixed. Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) eased 0.03% and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) slipped 0.25%, while HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) and Barclays (BARC.LSE) gained 0.27% and 0.46% respectively.

Mining stocks were also mixed, as Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) added 0.12% and Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) rose 0.32%, while Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) edged down 0.21% and Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) tumbled 1%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a steady open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.02% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.02% dip, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.01% downtick.

Also Thursday, Markit research group said Spain''s services purchasing managers'' index ticked up to 54.0 in March, from a reading of 53.7, compared to expectations for a fall to 53.5.

Later in the day, the euro zone was to release data on retail sales. 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.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger