European stocks move higher as focus shifts to Wall St; Oil firms slide
European stocks moved higher in midday trade Thursday as investors shifted their attention to Wall Street, where stocks looked set to open up ahead of the release of another series of earnings and new jobs data.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.38 percent.
Oil fall weighs on sentiment
Oil remains a talking point for markets after prices fell early on Thursday as a build in U.S. crude inventories and record Saudi Arabian production weighed on market sentiment.
Oil fell sharply on Wednesday after data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed crude inventories rose 1.1 million barrels in the week ended August 5, scuppering expectations for a drawdown instead. The International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its oil market report on Thursday.
Commodities stocks bore the brunt of the oil moves. The oil and gas sector was broadly lower, with the likes of Tullow Oil and Statoil in the red. The basic resources sector was also lower.
Glencore was slightly lower after its first-half production report in which it raised its full-year production guidance for copper but lowered it for coal and oil.
Old Mutual slides 5%
The insurance sector was in focus after key earnings from a number of companies. Zurich Insurance posted net income of $1.6 billion for the first half, down 22 percent on-year. But shares were higher after the firm said operating profit at its general insurance business rose, beating market expectations for a fall.
Old Mutual, however, dragged the insurance sector lower after the British firm reported a fall in pre-tax profit.
Elsewhere, Deutsche Telekom was trading flat after reporting an 8.6 percent rise in core profit that was in line with market expectations.
Sticking in Germany, utility RWE posted first-half operating profit that missed analyst expectations, but shares were higher.
And German industrial group ThyssenKrupp said core earnings fell 16 percent year-on-year, sending shares lower.
Potash miner K+S was near the bottom of the STOXX 600 after it warned that earnings could fall sharply in 2016.
Housing stocks hit
U.K. housebuilders also weighed on the STOXX 600. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reported slowing activity in the U.K. housing sector. The institution’s house price balance fell to plus 5 in July from +15 in June, its lowest since April 2013.
RICS cited uncertainty around Brexit as the key reason behind the fall.
Berkeley Group sat near the bottom of the STOXX 600 with other names such as Travis Perkins also sharply lower.