Europe cautious ahead of ECB decision – CNBC

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European equities were trading slightly higher as investors look ahead to the European Central Bank’s (ECB) latest meeting.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was marginally in positive territory mid-morning on Thursday.

Insurer Aviva was one of the best performers on the index, up 4.2 percent, after the group posted a 20 percent rise in group operating profit in 2015.

On Thursday, retailer Carrefourproposed raising its 2015 dividend by 2.9 percent to 0.70 euros a share after operating profit rose 2.4 percent to 2.445 billion euros ($2.68 billion),in line with a Thomson Reuters poll average of 2.45 billion euros, Reuters reported. Its shares were trading 4 percent lower on Thursday making it one of the worst performers.

Investors in Europe will be closely watching the ECB closely on Thursday as more stimulus is widely expected from the central bank amid slow growth and very low inflation in the euro zone. The monetary policy committee’s latest interest rate decision will be announced at 12:45pm GMT and will be followed by a press conference led by ECB President Mario Draghi.

Meanwhile in Asia, markets traded mixed as traders digested another round of Chinese economic data and interest rate decisions from central banks in New Zealand and South Korea. Chinese markets were lower, with the Shanghai composite down 1.12 percent and the Shenzhen composite lower by 0.74 percent.

Oil prices dipped early on Thursday after U.S. crude hit 2016 highs the day before and Brent shot back over $40 per barrel, with analysts warning in a Reuters report that larger gains would be unwarranted as a global glut continues to outweigh strong demand.

In other news, Nasdaq said on Wednesday it would buy U.S. options exchange operator International Securities Exchange for $1.1 billion from Deutsche Boerse, the latest deal to emerge from a spate of exchange merger talks, Reuters reported.

Elsewhere, French bank Societe Generale said on Wednesday it would shed 550 jobs over five years as part of consolidation of its 20 French client treatment centers into 15 sites, Reuters reported. Shares of the bank were 0.5 percent higher on Thursday.

Full-year earnings come from BMW and WM Morrison on Thursday.

Europe cautious ahead of ECB decision – CNBC