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European stocks mostly lower after weak E.Z. GDP report; Dax down 0.03%

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Shutterstock photo - - European stocks turned mostly lower on Thursday, after the release of disappointing overall economic growth data for the euro zone, although ongoing speculation over possible easing measures by the European Central Bank continued to support.

During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.21%, France's CAC 40 edged down 0.12%, while Germany's DAX dipped 0.03%.

Eurostat said the euro zone's gross domestic product grew just 0.2% in the first quarter, compared to expectations for growth of 0.4%. On a year-over-year basis the bloc's economy expanded 0.9%, falling short of expectations for growth of 1.1%.

Also Thursday, Eurostat reported that the annual rate of inflation in the euro zone was unchanged at 0.7% in April, in line with forecasts. The inflation rate is still well below the ECB's target of close to but just under 2%.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said the central bank was open to more monetary easing and was determined to act swiftly if required.

Financial stocks turned broadly lower, as French lenders BNP Paribas (PARIS:BNPP) and Societe Generale (PARIS:SOGN) tumbled 0.96% and 1.07%, while Germany's Commerzbank (XETRA:CBKG) dropped 0.57%.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Unicredit (MILAN:CRDI) and Intesa Sanpaolo (MILAN:ISP) plunged 1.94% and 3.07% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (MADRID:SAN) and BBVA (MADRID:BBVA) slipped 0.16% and 0.29%.

Elsewhere, Assicurazioni Generali (MILAN:GASI) climbed 0.54% after saying it is starting exclusive talks with Grupo BTG Pactual on the sale of the Italian company's Swiss private banking unit BSI Group.

In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 edged up 0.09%, as mining stocks turned broadly higher on the commodity-heavy index. Shares in Randgold Resources (LONDON:RRS) gained 0.33% and Glencore Xstrata (LONDON:GLEN) rose 0.33%, while rival Fresnillo (LONDON:FRES) jumped 2.60%.

In the financial sector, stocks were also mostly higher. Barclays (LONDON:BARC) advanced 0.40% and the Royal Bank of Scotland (LONDON:RBS) climbed 0.66%, while HSBC Holdings (LONDON:HSBA) rallied 1.02%. Lloyds Banking (LONDON:LLOY) underperformed on the other hand, down 0.12%

Sports Direct (LONDON:SPD) remained one of the top performers on the index, with shares up 1.90%, amid reports the retailing group is in talks to buy 33 sites from gym chain LA Fitness.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30futures pointed to a 0.14% rise, S&P 500futures signaled a 0.12% gain, while the Nasdaq 100futures indicated a 0.21% increase.

Also Thursday, data showed that the French economy stagnated in the first three months of the year, while Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands all reported contractions.

Germany's economy, the euro zone's largest, outperformed in the first three months of the year, expanding 0.8%, beating expectations of 0.7%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release data on initial jobless claims, consumer inflation and industrial production, as well as a report on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region. offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.

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