Stocks across Europe dropped Thursday, with investors waiting to hear from the European Central Bank about what it plans to do next to tackle low inflation levels and stagnating growth in the eurozone.
Stimulus questions: The European Central Bank will release its rate policy decision at 12:45 p.m. London time, or 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time, and ECB President Mario Draghi will hold his news conference 45 minutes later. A raft of recent data have highlighted worsening economic conditions in the eurozone, including Wednesday's report showing manufacturing-sector activity in Germany -- Europe's biggest economy -- contracted and hit a 15-month low.
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Markets: The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.9% to 337.31 in broad-based losses. European equities felt the weight of heavy losses Wednesday on Wall Street as signs of momentum in the U.S. economy stoked worries the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner rather than later.
The European oil and gas group stumbled more than 1%, as crude-oil futures slid below $90 for the first time since April 2013 after Saudi Arabia said it will cut the selling price of its oil.
Germany's DAX 30 fell 0.3%, France's CAC 40 lost 0.6% and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 shed 0.5%.
In the markets, Bayer AG said it sold $7 billion worth of bonds in an effort to finance its purchase of Merck & Co.'s (MRK) over-the-counter medicine business. Shares of Bayer were down 0.9%.
In Frankfurt, Rocket Internet AG shares made their trading debut. They were at 40.66 euros in mid-morning action, down from their issue price of EUR42.50.
Comments: The ECB wants "to get lending going again," as bank loans account for nearly 80% of corporate loans in the eurozone, compared with about 50% in the U.S., said Marshall Gittler, head of global currency strategy at IronFX, in a note.
The three main questions about the upcoming buying program will be what credit ratings the ECB require, what kind of underlying collateral will it accept and how much it will buy, said Gittler.