European equity benchmarks were mixed on Thursday morning as commodities stocks edged lower on London's FTSE 100 Index and investors eyed France's upcoming presidential election against a backdrop of heightened political uncertainty.
In economic news, producer prices advanced by 3.1% on an annualized basis in Germany in March, the same annual rate of change as registered in February, according to the nation's statistics agency Destatis. Energy prices increased by 4.5%, though prices of the different energy carriers diverged, according to the report. Prices of petroleum products increased by 16.2%, whereas prices of natural gas distribution decreased by 7.2%.
French voters are preparing to head to the polls this Sunday and, earlier in the week, British Prime Minister Theresa May surprised politicians and pundits alike by calling for a general election in less than two months, more than two years earlier than many expected the next election to be held, while later in the year German elections are due to be held.
Oil prices, meanwhile, were rebounding the morning after logging sharp declines despite government data showing a bigger-than-expected drop in US inventories in the prior week. West Texas Intermediate ( WTI ) crude oil, the main US oil benchmark, was 0.8% higher at $51.28 per barrel while Brent crude, the international gauge, was up by 0.9% at $53.41 per barrel in recent trade. On Wednesday, WTI and Brent finished 3.8% and 3.6% lower, respectively.
US inventories of oil declined by 1 million barrels to 532.3 million barrels in the week ended April 14, according to the Energy Information Administration's ( EIA ) weekly oil report, published on Wednesday. This compared to a 2.2 million barrel weekly decline registered the previous week and an 850,000 barrel decrease which had been projected by the American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday.
In equities, equipment rental company Ashtead Group was 4.1% lower on London's FTSE 100 Index, followed by Fresnillo, a mining company, down by 3.1% and Kingfisher, a home improvement products retailer, 2.0% lower. Randgold Resources, a gold mining company, was also down by 2.0%.
On Frankfurt's DAX, Thyssenkrupp, a steel production company, was 1.5% lower, followed by ProsiebenSat1 Media, a media company, down by 1.2% and Linde, a gas and engineering company, 1.1% lower. And, on Paris' CAC-40, financial services provider BNP Paribas was 2.9% higher, followed by Schneider Electric, which specializes in electricity distribution and automation management, up by 2.5%, Publicis, a communications company, 2.3% higher and Pernod Ricard, a wine, spirits and liqueurs producer, up by 1.9%.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was 0.07% higher, London's FTSE 100 Index was down by 0.15% and Frankfurt's DAX was 0.05% lower and Paris' CAC-40 was 0.57% higher at the time of writing.