LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets were mixed Thursday as investors waited for hints of possible eurozone stimulus from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi later in the day. With deflationary pressures still a worry, the ECB governors' meeting is expected to have discussed the possibility for further easing, although interest rate cuts are deemed unlikely at the moment.
In the U.K. however, surprisingly strong retail sales outcomes for September, which the Office for National Statistics attributed in part to a boost from the rugby World Cup tournament, prompted renewed speculation of an early interest rate rise.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.09% at 6,342.6, while in Paris the CAC 40 was down 0.07% at 4,691.91. In Frankfurt, the DAX was up 0.2% at 10258.76.
It's a big day for quarterly earnings announcements, which doesn't necessarily mean a boost for equities. In London, so-called repair, maintenance and improvement stocks took a big hit from home improvement supplies provider Travis Perkins (TVPKF) , the biggest faller on the FTSE 100.. Travis Perkins was down 5.86% at 1,848 pence by mid-morning after a trading update which recognized that Ebitda growth would be at the lower end of expectations.
The announcement and similar bad news from FTSE 250 rival SIG which dropped 21.5% to 140 pence, which blamed lower than expected levels of demand, dragged down fellow RMI players such as Kingfisher (KGFHY) , off 3.66% at 353.0 pence and plumbing supplies merchant Wolseley (WOSYY) - down nearly 3% at 3,691 pence.
Elsewhere in the retail sector, FTSE 250 department store Debenhams (DBHSY) was up nearly 4% at 84.35 pence after showing better than expected full year results and announcing that its CEO Michael Sharp intends to step down in 2016 after five years in the role. He will stay on to see that a successor is found and given time to settle into the job.
DFS Furniture was off 0.66% at 303 pence, after private-equity owner Advent International Corp. announced a £94.4 million ($146 million) secondary share placing at £2.95 a share, taking its holding in the British sofa retailer down to below 50% for the first time, since bringing the company back to the market in March this year. The shares sold represent a 15% stake and the Boston-based investor, which acquired what was then DFS furniture Ltd. five years ago, will retain 38% of the company for now.
In a rather different private equity move, Terra Firma Capital Partners drove up the share price of energy-from-landfill-gas producer Infinis (INFSY) with the announcement that it plans to pay 185 pence a share for the 31% of the company that it does not already own. That's a 40% premium to Infinis' 131.75 pence closing price on Wednesday and values the whole of Infinis' stock at £555 million. Terra Firma had previously put its holding in the company up for sale, but blamed regulatory changes for its failure to find a buyer.
In the Netherlands, paint maker Akzo Nobel (AKZOY) added a splash of color with a 2.53% rise to €63.88, following a first-quarter boost to net income of 39% to €285 million ($322.6 million). The company said this reflected "the positive effects of process optimization, lower costs, reduced restructuring expenses and favorable currency developments."
In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.64% at 18435.87 while the Topix fell 0.56% at 1,518.22. Hong Kong was down 0.63% at 22,845.37. In China, the Shenzhen Composite index rose 1.48% at 3,524.53 and the Shanghai Composite was up 1.45% at 3,368.74.