LONDON: European stock markets and the euro steadied yesterday as traders reacted to a drop in eurozone industrial production and awaited a key meeting on Syria.
Britain’s government meanwhile officially launched plans to privatise more than half of Royal Mail, saying an initial sale of shares in the state-run postal service would occur within weeks.
At close, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index was virtually unchanged at 6,588.98 points.
Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dipped 0.02 percent to 8,494.00 points and the CAC 40 in Paris slipped 0.30 percent to 4,106.63 points.
“The only noteworthy release... was the eurozone industrial production figure which showed activity falling 2.1 percent in July, well below expectations of minus 0.1 percent,” said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari traders.
Meanwhile in eurozone member Italy, borrowing costs mostly rose in an auction of medium and long-term bonds that raised ¤7.5bn ($10bn) amid high tensions over the political fate of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Italian Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni admitted on Wednesday that Italy continues “to pay the price of political uncertainty”. Milan’s MIB shares index was down 0.23 percent at 17,522.71 points.
In foreign exchange trade, the European single currency gained to $1.3311 compared with $1.3294 late in New York overnight. The dollar dropped to 99.21 yen from 99.87 yen. The price of gold fell to $1,328.00 an ounce on the London Bullion Market, from $1,340.78 Wednesday.
In London, the privatisation of Royal Mail was expected to be the biggest by a British government since former prime minister Margaret Thatcher — who died this year — sold off former state-owned companies British Gas and British Telecom to the public in the 1980s. Media reports say the part-sale of Royal Mail could be worth up to £3bn ($4.74bn). An initial offer price per share was expected shortly, traders said.
Investors also kept a keen eye on developments in the Middle East, as the United States and Russia discussed a plan to remove Syria’s chemical weapons.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva. Ahead of the meeting, Washington called on the Syrian regime to quickly declare the scope and size of its chemical weapons stockpile.
US stocks were also little-changed in opening trade yesterday as investors took pause after the S&P 500 racked up seven straight days of gains.
In midday trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.15 percent at 15,303.48. The broad-market S&P 500 slipped 0.24 percent to 1,685.03, while the tech-rich Nasdaq dipped 0.19 percent to 3,718.08.
Asian stock markets closed mostly higher as investors took a breather after a rally at the start of the week, but Tokyo slipped on profit-taking and a strong yen, traders said.