Europe Stocks to Open Lower; Portugal to Seek Aid

European stocks were indicated to open slightly lower on Thursday ahead of interest rates decisions by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, as well as news that Portugal will seek financial aid from the European Union.

Sharon Lorimer

Asian markets were mixed after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged and launched a new loan scheme for banks in the country's northeast region which was hit hard by last month's tragic earthquake and tsunami.

The UK's FTSE 100 index was indicated to lose only one point to 6,040, while Germany's DAX index was shown to open 14 points lower at 7,201, and France's CAC index was set to fall five points at the open to 4,043, according to IG Markets.

Portugal's caretaker government said it would request European financial aid late Wednesday. The bailout could be somewhere in the vicinity of 60 - 80 billion euros ($85 – $114 billion), but the country would have to impose tough austerity measures, sources told Reuters and Dow Jones newswires.

The euro clung near a 14-month high versus the dollar ahead of the central bank meetings that will take place on Thursday.

All eyes will be on the European Central Bank on Thursday. The bank is widely expected to raise interest ratesby 25 basis points, its first rate hike since the start of the financial crisis.

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee also winds up its two-day monthly interest rate meeting Thursday. It is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at a record low, despite rising inflation.

Spain's treasury will auction 3.5 billion to 4.5 billion euros ($5.01 - $6.4 billion) of new three-year government bonds. The sale will provide an indication of investors' confidence in the euro zone country, which - like Portugal and Greece - has come under attack for its high levels of debt.

European shares closed higher on Wednesday, with banking stocks among the top gainers.