Global stocks and the price of oil edged higher Thursday as OPEC countries discussed ways to control production and re-assert their influence over energy markets. Investors were also keeping an eye on the European Central Bank for hints on the economic outlook.
KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.5 percent to 6,220 and France’s CAC 40 was 0.1 percent higher at 4,479. Germany’s DAX edged up 0.2 percent to 10,220. U.S. Futures augured a subdued opening on Wall Street, with both the Dow and S&P futures unchanged.
OPEC MEETING: Investors are closely watching for the outcome of a top-level meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday in Vienna. Analysts say oil ministers from the 13-nation oil cartel are unlikely to reach an agreement to cut production, particularly since oil prices have recovered recently. But in a bid to restore their image of a market shaper, they could agree on a sliding ceiling that could shift between two benchmarks, both above 30 million barrels a day. That would be a first.
OIL: As the OPEC meeting got underway, the U.S. price for crude gained 1 cent to $49.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was up 2 cents at $49.74.
EYEING EUROPE: The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is expected to stress its commitment to raise inflation and help the economy at a meeting Thursday, but not to decide on any new stimulus measures. All eyes will be on its new forecasts for growth and inflation, as well as President Mario Draghi’s news conference. His tone and outlook could affect market’s expectations for more stimulus in coming months.
ASIA’S DAY: Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 2.3 percent to close at 16,562.55 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to postpone a sales tax hike to avoid shocks to the faltering recovery. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.5 percent at 20,859.22. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.4 percent to 2,925.23. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.8 percent to 5,278.90, while South Korea’s KOSPI was 0.1 percent higher at 1,985.11. Southeast Asian markets were mixed.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.97 yen from 109.48 in the previous day’s trading. The euro rose to $1.1199 from $1.1188.