LONDON (The Deal) -- European stocks were little changed Thursday as policymakers at both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England prepared to meet to set rates. In Asia, most markets took their cue from a four-day decline in U.S. equities and closed lower.
The eurozone's benchmark rate is 0.25% after last month's rate cut and ECB President Mario Draghi has stressed that the central bank has additional firepower should the region's flailing economy require another adrenalin shot. British rates are at a record low 0.5% but, by contrast, the central bank there said last month that rates could rise from as early as late next year if the economy continues to pick up. The U.K.'s Office for Budget Responsibility is expected later Thursday to lift its 2013 growth forecast significantly as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivers spending news.
The FTSE in London was up 0.09% at 6,515.68. In Frankfurt, the DAX rose 0.17% to 9.156.07 and in Paris, the CAC 40 was also up 0.17% at 4,155.51.
In Milan, Telecom Italia (TI) fell 1.9% as the prospect of an enforced sale of majority owned Brazilian unit TIM Participacoes increased. Brazil's competition regulator on Wednesday said that Telefonica(TEF) - Get Report, which recently agreed to lift its interest in Telecom Italia, must reduce its market share in Brazil. As well as its indirect interest in TIM, Telefonica owns Brazilian wireless services operator Vivo. It has been lobbying for Telecom Italia to sell TIM, whose stock is worth about 27.5 billion reais ($11.5 billion), for weeks but its calls had so far fallen on deaf ears.
In Sydney, Qantas Airways plunged more than 11% after the company warned of a first-half loss of up to A$300 million ($270.4 million). It also announced it will slash 1,000 jobs and begin reviews of capital expenditure and its structure in response to what it called "fundamentally changed market conditions." It pins much of its struggle on unfair competition from the country's No. 2 airline, Virgin Australia Holdings, which is ultimately backed by the Singapore, New Zealand and Abu Dhabi governments.
Qantas must by law be 51% Australian-owned but the airline hopes to persuade the government to lift that restriction.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei dropped 1.5% to end the trading session at 15,177.49. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed down 0.07% at 23,712,57.