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European markets head for lower open with time running out for Brexit trade deal – CNBC

LONDON — European stocks were muted on Thursday morning as markets tracked the parlous state of Brexit trade deal talks between the U.K. and EU this week.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 hovered around the flatline in early trade, the food and beverage sector climbing 0.8% while travel stocks fell 0.7%.

U.K. and European lawmakers vowed to make a formal decision on the future of post-Brexit trade talks by the end of the weekend, following an in-person meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday evening.

Talks remain at an impasse over several key issues, including fishing rights and competition rules. Downing Street said “very large gaps” remain, while Von der Leyen described the two sides as “far apart.”

EU leaders are gathering in Brussels Thursday for a two-day EU Council meeting.

Markets will also be keeping and eye on the European Central Bank which will publish its latest monetary policy decision and macroeconomic projections on Thursday. The central bank is expected to expand its massive stimulus program as the continent deals with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asia-Pacific markets mostly declined Thursday as investors kept an eye on Brexit trade talks as well as ongoing negotiations in the U.S. for a coronavirus relief package.

U.S. stock index futures were flat early on Thursday as investors continued to assess progress on additional stimulus measures, as well as developments on the Covid-19 vaccine front.

During regular trading hours on Wednesday, U.S. stocks rose to record highs. But the gains were ultimately short-lived and the major averages wound up closing in the red; stocks fell after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico that Republicans and Democrats were “still looking for a way forward” on additional fiscal aid.

On the data front, U.K. GDP grew by 0.4% in October, official figures revealed Thursday, slowing from 1.1% in September.

In terms of individual share price movement, Hellofresh climbed 7.4% after the German meal kit delivery company increased its full-year guidance on Wednesday. At the bottom of the European blue chip index, U.K. payment solutions firm Network International slid more than 6%.

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– CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this market report.

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