European stocks open slightly lower amid NAFTA negotiations

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index traded almost 0.3 percent lower, with most sectors and major bourses in the red. Basic resources led the losses, weighed down by lingering concerns of trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, amid easing business tensions in North America and Europe.

The leaders of the U.S. and Canada expressed optimism on Wednesday that ongoing talks over the revised terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would meet a Friday deadline. This follows on from a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Mexico at the start of the trading week.

Canada re-joined talks to modernize the 24-year-old NAFTA accord on Tuesday, with market sentiment boosted by the improving mood music surrounding the negotiations. The White House has said it wants to settle NAFTA discussions before then negotiating with China.

Traders also kept a close eye on a slew of corporate earnings. Swedish radiosurgery firm Elekta slipped to the bottom of the pan-European benchmark after posting an unexpected profit miss. The firm’s first-quarter profit fell to 238 million Swedish krona ($26 million) from $281 million. Shares dropped 6 percent.

And shares of French property investment group Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield fell after reporting first-half results. The firm, which recently finalized the acquisition of Westfield Corporation, posted a jump in profits, but shares were under pressure following a price target cut from Morgan Stanley. The stock was down 3 percent.

In Asia, stocks pared earlier gains as Chinese markets fixed firmly on risks from an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, slipped 0.2 percent Thursday, with broad gains offset by losses in Beijing. U.S. charges on another $200 billion of Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect later next month.

On the data front, the euro area is expected to publish a final reading of consumer confidence for August at around 10:00 a.m. London time. Investors are also likely to monitor a preliminary reading of Germany’s harmonized inflation rate for August at around 1:00 p.m.

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