European stocks were lower Thursday, dragged down by mining and healthcare stocks as investors trod cautiously ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday that could provide hints on the timing of a U.S. interest rate hike.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 1 percent.
A lack of major data and earnings in recent days has left traders focusing on Yellen’s speech on Friday at the annual Jackson Hole meeting of central bankers. Recent hawkish comments from Fed officials have helped buoy the dollar, which was trading just slightly higher against major currencies on Thursday.
Traders, however, are uncertain about the timing with many convinced that the Fed won’t move on rates in September.
In Asia, equity indexes traded mixedwith investors treading cautiously. The tentative sentiment spilled into Europe.
Miners under pressure
Oil prices fell slightly in Asian trade after a surprise rise in inventories last week in the U.S. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude inventories were up 2.5 million barrels last week, against analysts’ forecast for a draw of 500,000. The oil price dip is also likely to weigh on European investor sentiment.
The slide in oil prices sent the oil and gas sector lower. But the stronger dollar also weighed on metal prices which put the miners under pressure.
Shares in Glencore were sharply lower despite second-quarter earnings on Wednesday which showed narrowing losses and continued efforts to reduce debt.
Stocks to watch
In corporate news, the French government said it had not omitted key elements about its probe into Renault on emissions in a report. The Financial Times suggested in a report on August 22 that France’s Environment Ministry had left out some key details from their findings. Shares of Renault were lower.
Sticking in the auto sector, shares of Volkswagen were in the red despite it saying that output at its German factories should be back to normal by Monday after the carmaker resolved a dispute with two of its suppliers.
And Lufthansa cabin crew voted in favour of a new pay and pensions deal provided by the German carrier, ending a long-running dispute between the two parties, sending shares slightly lower.
In the telecoms space, Orange denied a media report that it had reached a deal with Vivendi to take a stake in its pay-TV Canal Plus and in Telecom Italia. Shares were trading in negative territory.
Healthcare stocks tanked after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called the price hikes to the EpiPen medicine, made by Mylan NV, “outrageous.”
Rusal profit slides 70%
Earnings were also in focus, particularly in Russia where a number of corporates were reporting. Aluminum giant Rusal reported a 70 percent year-on-year drop in net profit, sending shares lower.
Meanwhile, net VTB swung to a net profit in the first seven months of the year, with shares trading flat, while Sberbank was higher after reporting a better-than-expected net profit in the second quarter.
Sunrise Communications and Playtech were near the top of the STOXX 600 after positive earnings.
And supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize was in positive territory after its second-quarter underlying operating income beat market expectations.