European stocks traded higher early Thursday amid a hectic session for corporate earnings in France but amid ongoing caution due to political and economic risks in the region.
France's CAC 40 was in focus with a 0.4% advance after a slew of blue chip earnings reports prior to the open, including oil major Total (TOT - Get Report) and the country's second-biggest bank, Societe Generale (SCGLY)
SocGen shares were the second-bigger gainer on the benchmark after it posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and unveiled plans to spin off its vehicle leasing unit.
Shares in the bank rose 1.8% to change hands at €43.46 each by 8:30 a.m. GMT, making it the second-biggest gainer on the CAC 40 benchmark. The stock has been significantly outpaced, however, but its European lending peers over the past three months, falling 5.5% against a 13.6% can for the Stoxx 600 Europe Banks index.
Total was 0.3% firmer in the opening 45 minutes of trading to change hands at €46.83 after it revealed solid fourth-quarter earnings and boosted its dividend.
Germany's DAX performance index added 0.47% in early dealing, although gains were limited by declines for Commerzbank (CRZBY) , which fell despite posting stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings Thursday and a modest improvement on its balance sheet even as low interest rates continue to hold down profitability.
The bank did not provide earnings guidance for 2017, however, but noted it plans to keep its cost base under control and increase the amount of provisions for bad loans as it balance sheet repair program continues. Loan loss provisions €900 million, the bank said, with €290 million coming in the final three months of the year.
Commerzbank shares fell 2.13% to €7.55 each by 8:45 a.m. GMT, trimming their three-month gain to 19%.
Overnight in Asia, stocks outside of Japan rose to the highest level in 18 months as optimism over the pace of growth in China and a modestly firmer U.S. dollar boosted commodity prices and underpinned regional benchmarks. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan Index was marked 0.28% higher while the Nikkei 225 booked a 0.53% loss as a firmer yen once again limited gains for export stocks.
The dollar's gains, however, were limited by falling U.S. Treasury yields, which touched a three-week low Wednesday amid concerns over the strength and pace of the so-called global reflation trade. The dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, was little changed at 100.12 while the euro recovered modestly to 1.0698.
Top-rated government bond yields fell to the lowest levels in nearly a month Wednesday, while gold prices tested post November elections highs, as investors around the world retreated from risky assets amid mounting political risks in the U.S. and Europe.
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields traded 5 basis points lower at 2.34%, a three-week low, following on from a 7 basis point decline in 10-year German government bonds, which were marked at a near one-month low of 0.29%.
Investors also snapped up nearly €2.5 billion of the German paper offered by the government earlier Wednesday, bidding €2.2 for every €1 of bonds offered and paying more 3 basis points more than when the bonds were originally sold back in early January.
Oil prices were modestly higher overnight even as traders digest two consecutive readings of U.S. crude stocks that were much higher-than-expected, including Wednesday's 18.8 million build in commercial inventories reported by the Energy Information Agency.
The buildups, alongside accelerating rig counts, suggest American supply will have the potential to partially offset OPEC's agreed production cuts, which came into effect at the start of the year.
That said, WTI for March delivery was marked 0.36% higher at $52.53 as European trading got underway, while Brent contracts were pegged 0.43% firmer from Wednesday's close at $55.36.
U.S. equity indices were mixed Wednesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 36 points with the S&P 500 rose 1.6 points. The Nasdaq gained 8.2 points and the Russell 2000 closed lower by 2.3 points.
The S&P 500 volume traded just over 50 million shares. Its volume on a daily time frame for the first two months in 2016 was three to four times the volume traded by the index in 2017.
Futures prices suggest a similar open, with the Dow called 3.5 points lower and the S&P and the Nasdaq little-changed.