European equity benchmarks were little changed on Thursday morning, with the pan-European benchmark STOXX 600 index hovering near the flat line for a third straight session as traders awaited comments from European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi later in the day from a panel discussion organized by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington.
Investors will scrutinize his comments for clues on the ECB’s stimulus plans ahead of a key policy meeting on October 26. At that meeting, euro-region policymakers will consider whether to slow their asset purchases from the current 60 billion euros ($71 billion) a month and when to stop the additional boost to the economy amid signs that the outlook is improving.
US Federal Reserve policymaker Jerome Powell is due to give a speech, while his colleague Lael Brainard and ECB Board members Peter Praet and Benoit Coeure will appear on panels in Washington later in the day.
Stocks stayed steady even after a report from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office, showed Eurozone industrial production in August rose 1.4% from July after a monthly increase of 0.3% in July. That beat the 0.5% expectation by economists in an investing.com poll.
The STOXX 600 index was little moved, with banks being the biggest decliners, while miners and travel and leisure stocks advanced.
Just Eat, a UK food delivery company, the top performer in the benchmark STOXX 60 rose 4.7% after its merger with smaller rival Hungryhouse got preliminary approval from the UK competition watchdog. German airline operator Lufthansa gained 3.2% in Frankfurt after its chief executive, Carsten Spohr, said it would sign a deal later on Thursday to buy parts of the insolvent German carrier Air Berlin, Reuters reported. UK budget airline EasyJet gained 2.5% in London.
Gold miner Fresnillo rose 1.3% and Antofagasta added 1.2% in London, while HSBC fell 1.3%. French lender BNP Paribas dropped 1% in Paris. In Frankfurt, BMW dropped 1% and chipmaker Infineon fell 0.8%. Media conglomerate Vivendi added 1.7% and lens maker Essilor fell 2% in Paris.
The euro-region blue-chip DTOXX 50 slid 0.2% and the DAX in Frankfurt was down 0.1%. The FTSE was flat and the CAC 40 in Paris dropped 0.2%.