By Peter Nurse
Investing.com - European stock markets edged higher Thursday at the end of a turbulent month, with investors carefully watching developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict as well as volatile energy prices.
The lack of a substantial breakthrough in talks between Ukraine and Russia to end the war triggered by the Russian invasion in late February resulted in weakness in Europe Wednesday.
The tone has since improved, with Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia saying Thursday that officials from Russia and Ukraine are set to resume talks via video conference on Friday.
He added that the hope was to have enough agreed on paper in another week to be able to move toward a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky.
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 nearly 6% lower, 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.
French consumer prices rose 4.5% from a year ago in March, the most since the data series began in 1997. This sets the scene for Friday’s Eurozone CPI release, which is expected to soar to 6.6%, increasing the pressure on the European Central Bank to act.
In corporate news, Bayer (OTC: BAYRY ) stock rose 0.7% after the German drugmaker said it would invest around 2 billion euros ($2.23 billion) over the next three years, mainly to bolster production of biotechnology drugs as well as cell and gene therapies.
Air France KLM (OTC: AFLYY ) stock rose 1.2% after the Franco-Dutch airline renewed the mandate of CEO Ben Smith for an additional five years, creating stability during a difficult period for the industry.
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