European stocks traded lower Thursday after a third consecutive session of declines on Wall Street as investors shifted focus to global energy and currency markets and await a key policy meeting from the European Central Bank.
The region-wide Stoxx 600 Europe Index was marked 0.21% lower in the opening hour of trading, with all of the region's major benchmarks putting up modest declines of around 0.2%. Britain's FTSE 100 was the biggest mover, falling 0.56% as energy and basic materials stocks held down the benchmark.
The biggest decliner on the session, however, was the domestic-focused grocery store chain Wm. Morrison Supermarkets plc (MRWSY) , which posted it first full-year profits in five years but saw its shares tumble 5.22% after it cautioned on "uncertain" conditions for 2017.
In France, another retailer -- the world's second largest, in fact -- was also under pressure after relatively solid full-year earnings. Carrefour SA (CRRFY) shares fell 4.75% to a three month low after it kept its full-year dividend unchanged amid ongoing weakness in its domestic French market.
On the upside, AkzoNobelNV (AKZOY) shares surged 13.5% in Amsterdam after it rejected a $22.1 billion takeover bid from PPG Industries(PPG) - Get Report and said it would look at selling or floating one of its key business units in order to boost investor returns.
Akzo said PPG offered to buy the Dutch chemicals group for around €83 per share, in cash and shares, a 29% premium to Akzo's Wednesday closing price of €64.42 that would value Akzo at around €21 billion ($22.1 billion). Azko rejected the unsolicited bid, but said it would look at strategic alternatives, including the sale of its Specialty Chemicals business, which had €4.8 billion in sales last year.
Much of Asia trading was dictated by a surging U.S. dollar, which traded near its 2017 highs against a basket of global currencies after solid domestic employment data increased bets that the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates at it meeting next week.
The gains hit regional shares across the board, with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index falling 0.92%. Japan's Nikkei 225, however, was able to snap a four-day losing streak with a 0.34% advance as a weaker yen boosted export stocks in the wake of the dollar's overnight surge.
Global oil prices also tried a bit of a comeback in Asia trading after Wednesday's sharp 5% declines, which were triggered by a bigger-than-expected buildup in U.S. commercial crude inventories. WTI future for April delivery were marked 0.65% higher at $50.61 per barrel while Brent contracts were seen 0.8% higher at $53.57 per barrel.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated again on Wednesday, its first three-day decline since January, as crude oil suffered its largest drop in more than a year.
The Dow slid 0.33%. The S&P 500 was down 0.23%, and the Nasdaq increased 0.06%.
Losses in crude oil accelerated this afternoon to close at their lowest level of the year. Crude oil prices fell on Wednesday after another rise in domestic inventories. The Energy Information Administration reported U.S. stockpiles added 8.2 million barrels of crude in the past week. The increase was four times what analysts expected. Commercial inventories rose to an all-time high of 528.4 million barrels.
Equity futures are signalling a modest advance for the Dow at the opening bell on Wall Street Thursday, with the benchmark priced for a 3 point rise. The broader S&P 500 is likely to gain just 1 point at the start of trading while the Nasdaq is expected to bump 2.2 points.