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European stocks decline at open, Stoxx Europe 600 sheds 0.3%

European stocks decline at open, Stoxx Europe 600 sheds 0.3%


ROME: European stock markets declined for a third straight session on Thursday, as investors were hesitant of making any major moves ahead of OPEC’s monthly oil report and the Bank of England’s policy decision.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -0.26%  lost 0.3% to 363.04 but swung between small gains and losses. The pan-European benchmark closed Wednesday’s session down 0.4%, also after bouncing between positive and negative territory throughout at the end of the day.

Oil focus: Investors were closely watching moves in the oil prices ahead of the monthly report from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which could shed light on whether any regions are slowing production in response to oversupply in the market. The cartel last week decided to raise its production ceiling to 31.5 million barrels of oil a day, to reflect the “current actual production,” a move that sent oil prices tumbling. Analysts had expected the cartel to keep its production cap at 30 million barrels a day.

U.S. oil futures CLF6, +0.24%  earlier this week settled at the lowest level since 2009, but on Thursday were up 0.9% at $37.50 a barrel.

Traders “will be looking very closely at one element [in the OPEC report], which is who [is] leading in terms of market share and how hostile they are,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at AvaTrade, in a note.

“Iraq, without any doubts, has been forceful recently and Saudi Arabia has occupied the top spot as the biggest producer of oil to the Chinese buyers,” he added.

BOE decision: At noon London time, or 7 a.m. Eastern Time, attention turns to the U.K., where the BOE will release its latest interest decision and minutes from the policy-setting meeting. Economists widely expect the central bank to keep the benchmark interest rate at 0.5%, where it has stood since March 2009.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 index UKX, -0.36%  was down 0.4% at 6,101.12 ahead of the decision.

Other indexes: Germany’s DAX 30 index DAX, +0.01%  dropped 0.3% to 10,559.65, setting it on track for its lowest close since late October.

France’s CAC 40 index PX1, -0.02%  gave up 0.5% to 4,615.32.