Traders wait for ECB decision at 12:45 p.m. London time
U.K. stocks steadied around a three-week low Thursday, but Barclays PLC shares were under pressure following the bank's third-quarter earnings report.
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The FTSE 100 index was up 1.2 point at 7,448.53, as consumer goods, commodity and industrial stocks moved higher. But the financial, health care, and consumer services sectors were among those losing ground.
The London benchmark on Wednesday fell 1.1% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lloyds-drags-on-ftse-100-as-investors-focus-on-gdp-2017-10-25) and marked its lowest close since Oct. 2, according to FactSet data.
Corporates: Shares of Barclays (BCS) (BCS) were whacked down 6.3%, facing their worst session since June 2016, immediately after the U.K.'s Brexit referendum. That move came as the lender said third-quarter revenue fell 5% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/barclays-profit-rises-no-word-on-dividend-hike-2017-10-26) to GBP5.17 billion ($6.9 billion) from a year ago, as bond trading revenues slumped. The bank's markets-business revenue fell 30%, but that was somewhat offset by Barclays's U.K. retail and card business. Net-profit rose to GBP583 million.
Shares of other FTSE 100-listed banks were mostly higher after Barclays's report, with Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LLOY.LN) (LLOY.LN) and HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.LN) (HSBA.LN) each up 0.5% and Standard Chartered PLC (STAN.LN) gaining 0.7%. But Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS.LN)(RBS.LN) slipped 0.2%.
Meanwhile, shares of BT Group PLC (BT.A.LN) shed 0.4% after regulator Ofcom said it will cut BT's charges for up to one million landline-only customers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bt-to-cut-charges-for-1-million-landline-customers-2017-10-26) following a review.
Among advancers, consumer products heavyweight Unilever PLC (ULVR.LN) (ULVR.LN) picked up 1.3% and British American Tobacco PLC (BATS.LN) (BATS.LN) rose 1.6% to trade near the top of the FTSE 100.
ECB in focus: Investors across Europe will watch the European Central Bank, which is widely expected to reduce its bond purchases from EUR60 billion a month. The bank's statement is expected at 12:45 p.m. London time, or 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time. ECB President Mario Draghi will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. London time.
"Overall, we find it difficult to envision a scenario where the ECB surprises investors with its aggressiveness. The usual method of operation for Draghi & Co. is cautiousness, and we don't think that is likely to change now," said Charalambos Pissouros, senior analyst at IronFX, in a note.
"Even though the eurozone is showing some signs of economic momentum, that has not translated into a material pick up in inflationary or wage growth pressures yet. A potentially 'dovish tapering' announcement is likely to cause the euro to correct lower, we think," he said.
Read:Mario Draghi needs to avoid a 'taper tantrum' when the ECB meets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mario-draghi-needs-to-avoid-a-taper-tantrum-when-the-ecb-meets-2017-10-23)
Also read:Why Italy faces worst shock in Europe as ECB prepares to taper bond buys (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-italy-faces-worst-shock-in-europe-as-ecb-prepares-to-taper-bond-buys-2017-10-24)
Against the euro, sterling slipped to EUR1.1211 from EUR1.1227 late Wednesday in New York.
The pound fetched $1.3253, down from $1.3262 late Wednesday in New York.
Pound strength can hurt shares of multinational companies, which are heavily weighted on the FTSE 100. Most profit for FTSE 100 companies is made overseas so a higher pound can squeeze earnings when converted back into the U.K. currency.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 26, 2017 04:14 ET (08:14 GMT)