European stock markets drifted Thursday, with Rolls-Royce (OTC:RYCEY) Holdings (LON:RR) slumping, ahead of a key speech from Jerome Powell, the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
At 3:55 AM ET (0755 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.1% higher, the CAC 40 in France fell 0.2% and the U.K.'s FTSE index was down 0.2%.
Losses have been minor Thursday with most investors wary ahead of the Jackson Hole symposium, to be held virtually later Thursday, where U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to deliver a pivotal speech setting out the central bank's new strategy for meeting its price stability and maximum employment goals.
“If it goes the way most people are anticipating, with a move to allow inflation to overshoot the 2% target to achieve 2% on average, rather than as a spot target, then it would imply looser monetary policy and higher future inflation,” said ING’s Robert Carnell, in a research note.
Turning back to Europe, French business confidence rebounded in August to its highest since the country went into a coronavirus lockdown, a survey showed on Thursday.
In corporate news, Rolls-Royce stock dropped 7.3% after the U.K. engineering company reported a large pretax loss for the first half of the year, and couldn’t recommend a dividend.
On the flip side, advertising group WPP (LON:WPP) rose 5.4% after it resumed paying a dividend after cost cuts helped it to beat dire forecasts for second-quarter trading.
Bouygues (PA:BOUY) climbed 2.9% despite the French construction and media conglomerate reporting a net loss for the first half of 2020. It expects significant profitability in the second half of the year.
Oil prices were stable Thursday as Hurricane Laura made landfall, threatening to devastate the U.S. Gulf Coast, an area with nearly half of America’s refining capacity.
The prospect of a powerful hurricane is having a smaller impact on the market than would have been expected in the past: inventories remain high as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on fuel demand in the first half
U.S. oil inventories stood at 507.8 million barrels at the end of the week to Aug. 21, even after the Energy Information Administration reported a larger-than-expected drop of 4.7 million barrels.
U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% higher at $43.42 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract rose 0.3% to $46.29.
Elsewhere, gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,954.65/oz, while EUR/USD traded up 0.1%