VIENNA (Alliance News) - European stocks are likely to open flat to slightly lower on Thursday heading into central bank policy meetings. The European Central Bank is due to announce its rate decision at 7:45 am ET, with economists expecting the central bank to maintain its deposit rate and refinancing rate at -0.1% and 0.15%, respectively.
Following the announcement, ECB President Mario Draghi will hold a press conference at 8:30 am ET. Draghi is likely to put more emphasis on downside risks to growth amid a persistent threat of eurozone deflation and geopolitical risks.
The Bank of England will announce its monetary policy decision at 7 am ET. The central bank is expected to maintain its base rate at 0.5% and its total asset purchase facility at GBP 375 billion.
Besides the interest rate decisions, investors eye German industrial output data to assess the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Europe's biggest economy. On a sequential basis, industrial production is estimated to rebound 1.2%, after the 1.8% drop in May.
Asian stocks retreated for a third day, with the regional benchmark index hovering near a six-week low, as concerns of increasing military action along the Ukraine border fueled demand for safe-haven assets. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday issued a decree banning the imports of agricultural products from nations that have imposed sanctions on Russia over Moscow's involvement in the Ukraine conflict. The decree instructs officials to devise measures for stabilizing commodity markets and preventing food price rises.
In corporate news, Swiss foods giant Nestle SA confirmed its full-year outlook and unveiled plans to launch a new share buy-back program after reporting lower first-half net profit.
Zurich Insurance Group AG reported second-quarter net income after tax attributable to shareholders of USD837 million, up from USD789 million last year.
Cereal maker Kellogg Co. is weighing an offer for UK-based snacks and cookies maker United Biscuits, media reports suggest.
Deutsche Telekom AG reported that its second-quarter pretax profit increased to 1.15 billion euros from 864 million euros, a year ago.
Sports goods giant Adidas AG posted IFRS second-quarter net income attributable to shareholders of 144 million euros, down 16% from 172 million euros in the year-ago period.
Lender Commerzbank AG reported that its second-quarter of 2014 net profit increased to 100 million euros from 40 million euros in the second quarter of 2013.
The European markets fell on Wednesday as concerns over a Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine sent investors scurrying into defensive assets. The Italian economy unexpectedly returned to recession and German factory orders plunged at their fastest rate in nearly three years in June, sparking fresh concerns about the strength of the euro zone economy. The German DAX and the UK'sFTSE 100 both dropped about 0.7% each, while France's CAC 40 slid 0.6%.
US stocks hit two- month lows on Wednesday before ending marginally higher, as healthy corporate earnings offset growing concerns about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. In economic news, the US trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in June, pointing to a likely upward revision to the pace of GDP growth in the second quarter.