Europe Stocks Edge Down on Earnings -- Update

By Riva Gold and Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Stocks were off to a quiet start Thursday as investors parsed mixed corporate results ahead of a Bank of England meeting.

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The Stoxx Europe 600 edged down 0.2% in morning trading from its highest close since 2015, echoing a muted session on Wall Street.

The telecom and utilities sectors led declines in Europe, with shares of Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica and the U.K.'s BT Group PLC trading lower after releasing earnings figures.

Among gainers, shares of UniCredit SpA were up 4.2% after the Italian lender posted a first-quarter net profit, while miners and oil and gas companies outperformed as oil and metals prices recovered.

Later Thursday, the Bank of England is expected to leave its rates unchanged ahead of a U.K. national election in June. The BOE's inflation report, vote, and comments will be closely watched by investors, however, for any hints at a change in its projections for growth and inflation.

"The key focus will be on whether it will keep a possible early rate rise on the table," said strategists at Nordea.

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The British pound was last down 0.2% $1.2919 following disappointing industrial production figures, after climbing 4.6% against the dollar this year.

In the U.S., futures suggested the S&P 500 would pull back 0.1% from a record high, following a raft of earnings reports.

Shares of Snap Inc. tumbled 23% in after-hours trading Wednesday after its first quarterly report as a public company showed it struggled to maintain user growth. Shares of technology companies had led gains in U.S. stocks so far this year by a wide margin.

"This is a very narrow rally," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. "People are really willing to pay up for growth, and tech is one of the few areas where that's actually happening."

Shares of Whole Foods Market, Inc. climbed in premarket trading, after the grocery chain said it would dramatically reshape its board.

Earlier, stocks were broadly higher in Asian trading hours, in part supported by a climb in oil and metals prices. Crude prices logged their biggest daily gains since December on Wednesday, and Brent crude oil added another 1.1% to $50.77 a barrel on Thursday. Copper futures were last up 1.7% at $5,606 a ton.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 0.3%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.4% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1% despite weakness among shares of lenders.

South Korea's Kospi was on track for a fresh record as stocks rebounded from Wednesday's postelection pullback.

"Investment sentiment for the Korean stock market is expected to remain positive for the coming months, backed by sound corporate earnings," said John Park, chief investment officer of Baring Asset Management Korea. "The market may continue to rally significantly if retail investors return to the market."

In China, a note was posted on an official WeChat account run by the state-owned Securities Times, saying the country's stock regulator summoned brokers with large capital pools for a meeting on Monday to ease concerns about a crackdown in the shadow-banking sector. The regulator clarified that the crackdown is targeted at nonstandard assets and doesn't include bonds.

The Shanghai Composite rose 0.3%, recovering from earlier losses that sent it to a seven-month low.

In currencies, the New Zealand dollar fell sharply against the greenback after a central-bank policy statement was interpreted as dovish.

The euro was up 0.1% at $1.0882 even after the European Central Bank's chief economist said withdrawing monetary stimulus too soon would be riskier than doing so too late.

"Scaling back too early could jeopardize the recovery and the convergence of inflation toward our objective," said Peter Praet.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, was otherwise flat.

Yifan Xie

, Noemie Bisserbe, Georgia Wells, Tom Fairless and P.R. Venkat contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2017 05:28 ET (09:28 GMT)