European Stocks Struggle for Direction Ahead of ECB Meeting

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European stocks were looking for direction on Thursday, with investors eagerly awaiting the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting in Frankfurt and any comments on the Russia-Ukraine conflict from NATO leaders meeting in Wales. Asian indices were mostly down. 

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.12% at 6,881.91, while in Frankfurt the DAX shed 0.59% to 9,569.52. In France, the CAC 40 retreated 0.26% to 4,410.59. 

While the ECB is expected to leave interest rates untouched, ECB President Mario Draghi may use his post-meeting press appearance to shed light on where rates might be headed in the medium term and the economy and the ECB's thinking on quantitative easing. 

Ahead of the meeting, positive news from Germany's Economy Ministry indicated the recovery in Europe's largest economy is gathering pace. Factory orders rose a seasonally adjusted 4.6% in July, the biggest jump since June 2013 and well above the 1.5% economists had predicted in a Bloomberg News poll. 

The ECB is due to announce its interest rates decision at around 1:45 Frankfurt time. In the U.K., the Bank of England is expected to keep interest rates at 0.5%, where they've been since March 2009, when it announces its decision around noon London time. 

Meanwhile in Wales, NATO leaders kicked off a two-day summit expected to discuss a beefed-up military presence to limit the Russian threat to Ukraine. 

As for individual stocks, two of Europe's biggest builders were pulled in different directions.  

In Frankfurt, Bilfinger  (BFLBY) slumped 10.51% to 53.20 euros after the Mannheim-based construction and services company issued its third consecutive profit warning in as many months. 

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