European stocks are likely to open cautiously lower Thursday with currency markets in focus ahead of a key interest rate and inflation update later in the session from the Bank of England.
Britian's FTSE 100 is set to slip a modest 14 points at the opening bell, according to financial bookmakers IG, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 are likely to start the session little-changed from their Wednesday close.
The BoE will publish its latest Quarterly Inflation Report Thursday immediately following its regular decision on interest rates while Germany's statistics office, Destatis, will publish its initial estimate of first quarter GDP for the region's largest economy on Friday.
The pound was marked marginally weaker against the U.S. dollar at 1.2933, but has remained within touching distance of a September 2016 high amid speculation that the central bank will begin signalling what will be its first interest rate rise in nearly a decade.
However, Governor Mark Carney and his colleagues face the testing conditions of a slowing economy, flat wages and faster inflation, which has breached the Bank's 2% target for much of the year.
The euro was also under renewed pressure in early trading, falling to 1.0866 against the dollar, following European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's appearance in front of Dutch lawmakers Wednesday in which he said it was "too early to declare success" with respect to the Bank's mandate of delivering price stability of an inflation rate that sits 'just below 2%'.
The tone suggests Draghi will continue to prefer loose monetary policy, including negative interest rates and quantitative easing, for much of the remainder of the year.
Stocks in Asia notched solid overnight gains even as investors navigated the biggest single-day rise in global crude prices in more than 5 months Wednesday in U.S. trading
The region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index added 0.3% while Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.25%, taking the benchmark past the 20,000 point mark into the close.
Crude prices, however, were the focus for international trading after a bigger-than-expected 5.2 million barrel fall in U.S. oil supplies and renewed support for an extension of OPEC production cuts lifted benchmark levels by the most since December.
WTI futures for June delivery were marked 0.31%% higher at $47.35 per barrel while Brent contracts for the same month, the global benchmark, were seen 0.33% higher at $50.39 per barrel.
U.S. stocks are likely to take their direction from the European session with early futures prices suggesting each of the major benchmark will open little-changed from their closing levels yesterday, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average slip 0.16% on the back of a weak session for Disney Corp. and the S&P 500 rise 0.14%.