European equities were mixed on Thursday as oil prices and a slightly hawkish tone from the U.S. Federal Reserve managed to dent investor sentiment. The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index (^STOXX) was lower, with the oil and gas sector showing losses of over 3 percent. A fourth-quarter earnings report by Shell (London Stock Exchange: RDSA-GB) weighed heavily on the sector with the oil major announcing a cut in spending of $ 15 billion over the next three years. Shares were down over 5 percent in early afternoon trade, before paring losses to trade 4 percent lower.
Major bourses across Europe traded in different directions after the Danish central bank cut its key policy rate for the third time in two weeks, following intervention on the foreign currency market in an attempt to keep the crown currency within a tight range to the euro. The FTSE (FTSE International: .FTSE) traded around 0.6 percent lower, as German (^GDAXI), French (Euronext Paris: .FCHI) and peripheral markets traded in positive territory.
Read More Shell to cut spending by $ 15B as oil price slides Investors on Thursday also watch for developments in the growing tension between the new left-wing Greek government and European officials. Since coming to power, Syriza has already halted the privatization of Greece’s biggest port and refinery — a condition of its international bailout. Greek bank stocks fell 26 percent on Wednesday as investor nerves over the country grew. However, on Thursday Greek banking stocks regained some losses and the Athens index was trading around 3 percent higher. Meanwhile on Wednesday evening, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) stuck to its vow to be “patient” on hiking interest rates and raised its view of the economy and labor market, even as the central bank said it anticipates inflation to fall further in the near term.
Read More Fed: Will remain ‘patient,’ upgrades economy “The committee gave a more upbeat economic assessment, considering activity to have been expanding at a ‘solid’ (rather than ‘moderate’) pace and recent job gains to have been ‘strong’ (rather than merely ‘solid’),” Chris Scicluna, an economist at Daiwa Capital, said in a morning note.
“That might well suggest the door remains open for a mid-year rate hike.” U.S. stocks opened higher on Thursday, bouncing back after a two-day rout, as corporations including Ford Motor rose on earnings and a less-than-expected number of Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Stock futures added to gains after the Labor Department reported jobless claims dropped by 43,000 to 265,000 last week, fewer than forecast and the lowest number in nearly 15 years.
Alibaba Group Holding fell in early New York trading after the Chinese e-commerce company reported quarterly revenue short of expectations; McDonald’s gained after the fast-food chain said its chief executive officer would be replaced by its chief brand officer March 1.
Read More Whois McDonald’s new British CEO? On the data front, the German jobless rate for January came in at 6.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. This was lower than December’s number of 6.6 percent. Also on Thursday, European markets will closely watch an emergency meeting of European foreign ministers who are discussing the escalating violence in Ukraine. Although sanctions could be extended by nine months, EU diplomats told Reuters, a final decision was not likely until next month when an EU-Ukraine summit is to be held. In stocks news, shares of Diageo (London Stock Exchange: DGE-GB) fell 0.6 percent after the drinks manufacturer posted lower-than-expected sales on Thursday.Read More Diageo slumps in EM, but growth will return: CEO Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank (XETRA:DBK-DE) shares rose 1.75 percent Thursday after posting a surprise profit for the last period.
Read More Deutsche Bank posts surprise profit in fourth quarter Also, infrastructure investor John Laing set its initial public offering price range at between 195 pence and 245 pence on Thursday. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld
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