European stock markets still in Wall Street's thrall


European stock markets were little changed to slightly lower Thursday as investors paused for breath following strong gains earlier this week, traders said.

European bourses closely tracked Wall Street, where share prices fell back slightly, a day after clocking up their biggest daily gains of the year so far.

The main focus of attention was the initial public offering of Snap Inc, the parent company of the instant messaging service Snapchat, which observers said could be the hottest new listing this year.

"The Dow Jones reaching a historic 21,000 and with all the attention on the Snap IPO, equity markets have taken a bit of a breather," London Capital Group analyst, Jasper Lawler.

"Trump-inspired optimism is alive and well but the huge rally following his first speech to Congress has left little room for shares to advance further in the short term."

Mike van Dulken of Accendo Markets said that "with markets having rallied so hard, and so close to record highs, investors are perhaps also waiting to see how ravenous the appetite is for shares in Snap."

Snap Inc priced its IPO at $17 a share to raise $3.4 billion and give the California startup a hefty valuation of $24 billion. It's the largest US tech firm to make a market debut since Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) in 2012.

In early trade, the shares jumped more than 40 percent.

- US rate hike? -

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said investors were waiting for more hints at future interest rates moves.

"The language from the Fed has become far more hawkish over the last couple of weeks and yesterday's comments from Lael Brainard -? arguably the most dovish policy maker -? was the icing on the cake," Erlam said.

"Not only is March now on the table, in many people's eyes it's the base case scenario which is a massive change from even a week ago."

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, usually considered a dove, said she supported the case for an interest rate hike "soon".

That came a day after two regional Fed presidents said they saw a strong case for tighter borrowing costs, while Fed boss Janet Yellen is due to give a speech Friday.

In Europe, dealers tracked data showing eurozone inflation had in February hit the European Central Bank's 2.0 percent target for the first time since 2013 as its massive economic stimulus appeared to be finally paying off.

Unemployment in the 19-country single currency area in January meanwhile was 9.6 percent, unchanged from December but holding at its lowest rate since May 2009, the Eurostat statistics service said.

- Key figures around 1645 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 21,068.57 points

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,382.35 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 12,059.57 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 4,963.80 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,384.71 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 19,564.80 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 23,728.07 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,230.03 (close)

Euro/dollar: FLAT at $1.0516

Pound/dollar: FLAT at $1.2273

Dollar/yen: FLAT at 114.43 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 96 cents at $55.40 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 88 cents at $52.95