LONDON – European stocks withdrew on Thursday, as investors consider the consequences of the growing number of coronavirus cases in the region, and EU leaders discuss possible blockades of vaccine exports.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.2% in early trade, oil and gas inventories fell 1.3%, leading to lead losses, while utilities rose 0.6%.
The main focus of European markets on Thursday will be a virtual meeting of EU leaders to discuss the worrying epidemiological situation in Europe and the sluggish introduction of vaccines.
High on the agenda are possible restrictions on vaccine exports from the bloc, a move that could most severely affect neighboring UK and that could halt its hitherto successful immunization program.
The EU and the UK have sought to ease tensions over vaccine exports over the past 24 hours, saying on Wednesday they wanted to find a “win-win” solution and increase supplies across the continent.
Shares of AstraZeneca will also be viewed on Thursday after the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker reported a lower rate of effectiveness of its Covid vaccine (revising it to 76% from 79%) after it provided updated data to U.S. health regulators. The move followed criticism from an independent supervisory board that its previous 79% efficiency disclosure was based on outdated information. Shares of AstraZeneca rose 0.6% in early trading.
Globally, futures related to major U.S. stock indices were modestly higher in presale on Thursday, after pressures on Nasdaq Composite technology stocks fell 2% during the regular session. Meanwhile, shares in the Asia-Pacific region also rose sharply in trading on Thursday, despite technology stocks in the region hit a hit after a sell-off in the Wall Street sector.
Earnings were brought in by Deutsche Wohnen, Cineworld and Smiths Group on Thursday, while Tui, ABB and Givaudan hold annual meetings.
Shares of Cineworld fell more than 9% after reporting a $ 3 billion loss in 2020, for the first time as a listed company. Cineworld also plans to ask shareholders to approve an increase in the debt ceiling to secure their finances.
Deutsche Wohnen announced a drop in net profit, but projected solid progress in 2021. Shares fell 0.4% in early trading.
Swiss SoftwareONE saw its shares fall more than 17%, following a full-year earnings and outlook report for 2021.
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