European markets are expected to open lower Thursday as investors continue to sit on the sidelines amid upcoming election risks and still-simmering geopolitical tensions.

Britain's FTSE 100 is expected to slip around 0.16% at the opening bell, according to financial bookmakers, with modestly larger declines priced in for the DAX index in Germany and France's CAC-40 as investors prepare for the first round of presidential elections in France this weekend that remain effectively deadlocked among four candidates that represent the widest spectrum of French political opinion.

Asia markets also traded with a cautious tone Thursday, although recent declines brought out bargain hunters in the latter half of the session as buyers snapped up cheaper stocks amid improved sentiment from the Japanese manufacturing sector. The region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index added 0.25% by 07:00 GMT while Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped into negative territory in the final hour of trading to close 0.01% lower at 18,430.49 points.

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Oil prices also mounted a modest comeback after yesterday's steep declines, which were largely powered by concerns of oversupply in global energy markets and potentially slowing demand into the northern hemisphere's summer season. WTI futures for April delivery were marked 1.03% higher at $50.96 per barrel while Brent contracts for the same month, the global benchmark were seen 0.75% higher at $53.09 per barrel.

Much of the same pattern was evident in U.S. trading Wednesday, only in the opposite direction, as earlier market optimism faded and a financials rally gave way to a selloff in Dow Jones Industrial Average component IBM (IBM) - Get International Business Machines (IBM) Report and energy shares.

The S&P 500 sank into the red in the final two hours, joining the Dow which had fallen into negative territory earlier in the day. The S&P 500 finished down 0.18% and the Dow slid 0.59%. The Nasdaq remained in the green, adding 0.23%.

U.S. futures prices are pointing to a modest rise at the bell, with the Dow set to gain 7 points and the S&P expected to advance by around 1.9 points.