By Peter Nurse
Investing.com - European stock markets are expected to open largely unchanged Thursday at the end of a turbulent month, with investors carefully watching developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict as well as volatile energy prices.
European stock markets largely closed lower Wednesday on disappointment of the lack of a substantial breakthrough in talks between Ukraine and Russia to end the war triggered by the Russian invasion in late February.
Ukrainian forces are now preparing for new attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.
Additionally, the United States is looking to up the economic pressure on Moscow, by expanding sanctions on Russia in the coming days, White House spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said late Wednesday.
European stocks have suffered a very difficult quarter, with the DAX down over 8% year to date and both the CAC 40 and the broad-based Stoxx 600 down nearly 6%, as the war in Ukraine put upward pressure on commodity prices, increasing stagflation fears.
Some of those concerns lessened Thursday, after oil prices slumped following reports that the U.S. is considering a massive release of crude from emergency reserves over several months in order to tackle prices which have climbed above $100 a barrel in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Biden administration could make the announcement later Thursday, the reports said, with the total release from the country’s strategic petroleum reserve potentially as much as 180 million barrels.
The International Energy Agency has also called an emergency ministerial meeting for Friday, amid speculation the Paris-based organization will attempt to coordinate a global release by other countries.
This news has overshadowed a meeting, scheduled for later in the session, of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, a group known as OPEC+, which is expected to stick to an existing deal of increasing oil production by around 400,000 barrels per day through May.
In corporate news, Sanofi (PA: SASY ) (NASDAQ: SNY ) is likely to be in the spotlight after the French healthcare group priced its first sustainability-linked bond issue that will be indexed on access to medicines, and worth 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion).
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