Europe ends slightly up; oil, earnings eyed; BoE holds rates

European stocks finished the session slightly higher on Thursday, as investors remained cautious on the price of oil, amid another set of mixed earnings from leading businesses.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed up 0.3 percent provisionally, with sectors pointing in different directions by the close.

When looking at leading bourses, France's CAC ended 0.5 percent up, while Germany's DAX popped 0.7 percent. London's FTSE 100 however closed roughly flat following the Bank of England's latest rate decision.

What's shaking up markets


Oil markets remain a big market mover this week, as investors await news from of a meeting in Doha this weekend. On April 17, OPEC and non-OPEC producers are expected to meet to discuss oil's current environment, with market-watchers hoping for a potential output freeze.

On Thursday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest forecast for oil, with the firm trimming its estimates for 2016 on global demand growth, to around 1.2 million barrels per day. Crude prices, however, continued to waver throughout trade, with Brent last standing around $44.29 and U.S. crude at $41.91.

In individual stock news, BP shares tumbled following news that shareholders had voted to oppose CEO Bob Dudley's $20 million pay package for 2015. Shares closed down some 1.9 percent.

Elsewhere in commodities, miners under-performed, with precious metal firms Randgold Resources and Fresnillo falling to close sharply lower as the price of spot gold and spot silver declined.

U.K. investors have also been keeping a close watch on the Bank of England this Thursday, as the central bank released its latest interest rate decision and monetary policy announcement. In the minutes, the BoE voted 9-0 to maintain the U.K.'s key interest rate at 0.5 percent once again, with the bank also warning on the effects of a "Brexit".

"Such a vote might result in an extended period of uncertainty about the economic outlook, including about the prospects for export growth. This uncertainty would be likely to push down on demand in the short run," the bank's minutes said.

Nestle pops; Burberry loses its shine

Earnings were front and center on Thursday. Shares of Swiss food group Nestle jumped 2 percent after it confirmed its full-year outlook and reported first-quarter underlying sales growth of 3.9 percent.

Life services firm Sodexo reported operating profit of 658 million euros in the six months to February 29, a 6.1 percent year-on-year rise, but shares slipped to close over 3 percent. Meanwhile Hays jumped over 7 percent, after the recruitment firm said it expected to deliver special dividend payouts if growth continued; Reuters reported.

U.K. housebuilder Persimmon said it had "brought forward a healthy order book into 2016 and our strong sales performance over the period has resulted in total forward sales revenue, including legal completions taken so far in 2016, being 8 percent higher than last year". But shares tanked 6 percent to the bottom of benchmarks, over concerns of a slowdown in the U.K. property investment sector.

Meanwhile, British luxury fashion brand Burberry warned that the "external environment that remains challenging" after reporting its second-half revenues were down 1 percent. Shares came off session lows to close 3.6 percent down, with other names in the sector like Luxottica also closing sharply lower.

In Asia overnight, markets finished the session higher with the Japanese Nikkei 225 leading the way, closing over 3 percent, on the back of a weaker yen. In the U.S., markets traded in a slightly higher range at Europe's close as investors eyed the latest bank earnings.

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