© Reuters.  © Reuters.

By Peter Nurse

Investing.com - European stock markets are trading lower Thursday ahead of the latest policy meeting of the European Central Bank, with the corporate environment remaining challenging.

At 3:50 AM ET (0750 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.1% lower, the CAC 40 in France fell 0.3% and the U.K.'s FTSE index was down 0.6%.

The latest meeting of the European Central Bank will be the market’s focus, with its policy decision due at 7:45 AM ET (1145 GMT), followed 45 minutes later by a news conference from President Christine Lagarde.

The central bank is scheduled to release its staff’s new economic forecasts and there may be comments about its ongoing strategy review. But the main interest is whether it tries to weaken the single currency given the importance of the export sector for the region.

“The Governing Council is likely to flag the recent euro appreciation, noting that the volatility in the currency requires monitoring,” said analysts at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), in a note. “But we see a high bar for policy action given that ECB officials have historically not eased policy when euro strength predominantly reflected improving economic prospects.”

In corporate news, the damage the virus has done to the travel sector was illustrated by IAG (LON:ICAG), the owner of British Airways, planning a capital raise of 2.74 billion euros to repair its balance sheet. Its stock climbed 1.8%.

Saga (LON:SAGA) dropped 5.5% after the company, which specialises in products for over 50s, confirmed its intention to raise about 150 million pounds as it swung to a loss in the first half of the year.

WM Morrison Supermarkets (LON:MRW) stock fell 4.5% despite sales surging in the first half of its financial year but profits drop because of coronavirus-related costs.

Overnight in the U.S., the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index posted its steepest rise in more than four months, gaining 2.7%, to halt a three-session slump that had cast doubt over the valuations of the mega cap tech stocks which had driven the market’s strong recovery. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.6% and the S&P 500 climbed 2%, in conjunction.

Oil prices slipped back Thursday, as a rise in U.S. crude inventories prompted concerns about faltering demand just as the peak driving season came to an end.

The American Petroleum Institute on Wednesday reported a 2.97 million barrel-build in the country’s crude stockpiles for the week ending September 4, compared with the 1.4 million draw widely forecast.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release official weekly inventory data later on Thursday, a day later than normal following the U.S. Labor Day holiday.

U.S. crude futures traded 1.4% lower at $37.53 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract fell 1.1% to $40.34.

Elsewhere, gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,952.35/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.1818.

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