EU Stocks Steady Ahead of ECB Meeting

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- European stocks were flat ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting on Thursday and Asian markets outside China were mostly lower after disappointing U.S. earnings reports dented investor sentiment.

KEEPING SCORE: Europe got off to a cautious start with Britain's FTSE 100 down 0.2 percent at 6,335.64 and Germany's DAX up 0.2 percent at 10,259.36. France's CAC 40 dipped 0.1 percent to 4,692.43. Wall Street was set to rise. Dow futures were up 0. 2 percent and S&P 500 futures gained 0.3 percent.

ANALYST VIEW: ECB President Mario Draghi "may step up rhetoric on more easing to bring up inflation and support growth," said Bernard Aw, an analyst at IG in Singapore. Drops in energy and other commodity prices could prompt the central bank to consider ramping up its stimulus measures, Mizuho Bank said in a market commentary.

CHINA CALM: Chinese stocks closed higher after zigzagging between positive and negative. The Shanghai Composite Index finished up 1.5 percent at 3,368.74 following a 3 percent slide Wednesday. Angus Nicholson, an analyst at IG in Melbourne, Australia, said higher Chinese stocks were a relief for the region, strengthening currencies highly reliant on commodities such as the New Zealand and Australian dollars and the Indonesian rupiah.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian stock markets outside China closed mostly lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent to 18,435.87 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 1 percent to 2,023.00. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 percent to 22,845.37. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 5,263.80.

SAMSUNG DIVES: Shares of Samsung Engineering nosedived 19 percent in Seoul after reporting a quarterly net loss of 1.3 trillion won ($1.14 billion) for the July-September quarter. The engineering company with a market value of about 1.1 trillion won said it will sell 1.2 trillion won of new shares to improve its financial status and seek to sell its headquarters building worth 350 billion won ($308 million). Samsung SDI, the biggest shareholder in Samsung Engineering, sank 4 percent and Samsung Heavy Industries, another Samsung affiliate, plunged 7 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 47 cents to $45.69 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.09 to close at $45.20 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 45 cents to $48.30 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro weakened to $1.1311 from $1.1339. The dollar fell to 119.78 yen from 119.90 yen.

(BAS)