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European Stocks Edge Higher as Traders Eye ECB Policy Decision

European equity benchmarks were extending gains on Thursday morning as traders eyed the release of the European Central Bank's (ECB) monetary policy decision while shrugging off overnight declines in US markets.

The ECB is not expected to make any changes to its current interest rate or asset purchase scheme but the bank's statement, due out later in the day, is likely to be scoured by investors and analysts alike for any clues indicating when it plans to bring its years-long quantitative easing program to an end.

In economic news, price-adjusted new orders in manufacturing fell by 3.9% in January in Germany when compared to December, according to the nation's federal statistics agency Destatis. Separate data, published by research company Markit, meanwhile, bodes well for the employment landscape with staff appointments in the UK having continued to rise strongly in February while permanent placements expanded at a softer, though still marked pace.

In equities, engineering company Rolls Royce Holdings Plc (RR.) was leading the gainers on London's FTSE 100 Index, 2.1% higher, followed by television company ITV (ITV.L), up by 1.8% and Mediclinic International (MDC.L), a private hospital group, also 1.8% higher. Associated British Foods (ABF.L), a producer of foods and operator of retail stores, was also up by 1.8%.

On Frankfurt's DAX, athletic apparel retailer adidas (ADS.DE) was 2.3% higher, logistics and mail delivery company Deutsche Post (DPW.DE) was up by 1.3% and Vonovia (VNA.DE), a housing association, was 0.9% higher. Consumer goods company Henkel vz (HEN.DE) was 0.6% higher. And, on Paris' CAC-40, electric utility company Engie SA (ENGI.PA) was 4.4% higher while Valeo SA (FR.PA), a supplier of automotive parts, was also up by 1.5%.

Oil prices meanwhile were struggling for direction the morning after government data showed an increase in stockpiles. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures, the main US oil benchmark, were little changed at $61.16 per barrel while Brent crude, the international gauge, was down by 0.1% at $64.28 per barrel in recent trade. US commercial crude oil inventories rose by 2.4 million barrels to 425.9 million barrels in the week ended March 2, according to data published by the Energy Information Administration.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was 0.34% higher, London's FTSE 100 Index was up by 0.19%, Frankfurt's DAX was 0.13% lower and Paris' CAC-40 was 0.56% higher at the time of writing.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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