By Peter Nurse
Investing.com - European stock markets sold off Thursday, with investors wary following disappointing economic data from Asia and ahead of the latest U.S. jobless numbers.
At 3:55 AM ET (0755 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 1.1% lower, France's CAC 40 fell 1%, while the U.K.'s FTSE index was up 0.7%.
Earlier Thursday, a trade report from South Korea, a bellwether for global commerce, showed exports may be set to drop more than 20% in May for a second month. Meanwhile, Japan’s overseas shipments also plunged by more than a fifth in April and a purchasing managers index showed manufacturing activity weakening further in May in the world’s third-largest economy.
Data in Europe showed some improvement, with Germany's flash composite Purchasing Managers' Index rising to 31.4 after hitting a record low of 17.4 the previous month and France’s measure of services and manufacturing rose to 30.5 from 11.1 in April, it said Thursday.
However, these figures both still signal contraction, and businesses remain pessimistic about the next 12 months.
Attention will now turn to the release of the key weekly U.S. jobless claims figures, at 8:30 AM ET (12:30 GMT), with economists looking for a dip from last week, but a slight one as companies are still forced to shed jobs.
Claims for first-time unemployment benefits are expected to come in at 2.4 million, compared with nearly 3 million the week before.
In corporate news, U.K.-based airline easyJet (LON:EZJ) gained over 4% after saying it will resume flights on June 15, starting mainly with domestic flying in the U.K. and France before adding further routes over the coming weeks.
Staying in the sector, Deutsche Lufthansa (DE:LHAG) soared over 6% after confirming Thursday that it is in advanced talks with the German economic stabilization fund for up to 9 billion euros ($9.84 billion) in state aid.
The crude oil market headed higher Thursday, helped by the Energy Information Administration reporting an oil inventory draw of 5 million barrels for the week to May 15.
At 3:55 AM ET, U.S. crude June futures traded 1.8% higher at $34.11 a barrel. The international benchmark Brent contract rose 1.3% to $36.20.
Elsewhere, gold futures fell 0.9% to $1,736.85/oz, while EUR/USD traded at 1.0965, down 0.1%.