European stocks traded slightly higher on Thursday, taking cues from a rally in oil prices but with a watchful eye on Friday’s crucial U.S. jobs numbers.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.55 percent.
European markets are being buoyed by a rebound in oil markets on Thursday. Oil prices jumped by more than one percent in early trading on Thursday as a huge wildfire in Canada disrupted its oil sands production, while escalating fighting in Libya threatened the North African nation’s output, Reuters reported.
International benchmark Brent crude futures were trading at $45.43 per barrel at 0800 a.m. London time, up 1.95 percent from their last close.
Stocks in the oil and gas sector rallied too. Shares in Repsol were sharply higher despite reporting a 43 percent fall in net income for the first quarter of 2016.
In Asia, meanwhile, markets were lower on Thursday in the wake of a reading on China’s economy which showed growth in the services sector moderated last month.
China Caixin services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) came in at 51.8 for April, continuing to show expansion, but marking a moderation from 52.2 in March. A reading above 50 indicates activity is growing while one below that level suggests a contraction.
Following the data, mainland Chinese markets were lower to flat, with the Shanghai composite down 0.27 percent and Shenzhen composite effectively unchanged. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index shed 0.35 percent.
In other data news, the U.K.’s economic growth could stall to just 0.1 percent in the second quarter of the year, down from the 0.4 percent seen in the first quarter, according to financial data company Markit, driven by uncertainty over the June referendum in which the British public will decide if the country will remain a member of the European Union.
Britain’s April services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) hit 52.3, the lowest since February 2013 and down from the previous month’s reading of 53.7.
On the earnings front, BT reported a 6 percent rise in full-year revenue on Thursday to £18.91 billion ($27.46 billion), including the acquisition of mobile operator EE, and up 2 percent on an underlying basis, sending shares 3.2 percent higher.
U.K. supermarket chain Morrisons saw shares sharply higher after it said like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to May 1 rose 0.7 percent.
Software firm Sage Group saw a 15.6 percent year-on-year fall in pretax profit for the half year ending March 31 as it continues to turn around the business, sending shares lower.
Shares in Insurance group RSA were higher after it saw net written premiums for the first quarter fall 1 percent but operating profits were ahead of the company’s expectations.
Barclays said it had raised £603 million ($875.50 million) after selling a 12.2 percent stake in its Africa business. Shares were roughly flat.
Satellite operator Inmarsat cut its full-year revenue guidance as the “sustained recession in global maritime and energy markets continues”, sending shares down 4.5 percent.
British engineering firm Rolls-Royce reiterated its 2016 outlook after a tough 2015 which saw a number of profit warnings. Still shares were sharply lower.
U.K. utility Centrica fell towards the bottom of the STOXX 600, down over 7 percent after it announced plans to raise around £750 from a private placement of shares to fund two acquisitions and cut debt.
The Italian banks rallied on Thursday amid hope of reforming the country’s troubled banking sector. Italian banks have been under pressure due to the large portfolio of bad loans on their books. The Italian government has been taking measures to help the sector including the creation of a so-called “bad bank” called Atlante.
The bad bank made its first intervention over the weekend, putting money into Banco Popolare di Vicenza after its plans to go public flopped.
Italy’s treasury may put money into the bailout fund through an investment vehicle it is buying from Intesa Sanpaolo, Reuters reported, citing a government source. The news helped boost sentiment around the Italian banks on Wednesday.
Banca Monte Paschi di Siena, one of the most troubled Italian lenders, was up 5 percent ahead of its earnings which are expected this afternoon.
– CNBC’s Aza Wee Sile contributed to this market report.