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European Stock Futures Edge Higher; Covid Developments Still in Focus

European stock markets are expected to open in a muted fashion Thursday, as investors continue to monitor developments surrounding the Covid virus and ahead of the release of important U.S. employment data.

At 2 AM ET (0700 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.1% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.2% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.2%.

Global stock markets have been buoyed this week by indications that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus may produce a milder reaction in patients, even if it’s highly transmissible, along

with studies from drugmakers that the current vaccines can cope with the virus’s mutations.

“Emerging data from South Africa suggests increased risk of reinfection with Omicron,” World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said late Wednesday, adding “there is also some evidence that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta”.

That said, many countries in Europe are still battling to stop a fourth wave of the pandemic by imposing tougher Covid-19 restrictions, including England ordering people to work from home and Denmark closing restaurants, bars and schools.

The European data slate is pretty empty Thursday, and much of the attention is likely to be on the release of the latest weekly U.S. jobless claims data from the U.S., at 8:30 AM ET (1330 GMT), the most up-to-date gauge of the strength of the country’s labor market.

Economists are expecting the number of first-time claimants to come in at 215,000, a small improvement from the 222,000 seen the previous week.

Back in Europe, the earnings season is drawing to a close, but there are quarterly numbers expected from the likes of Rolls Royce (LON:RR), DS Smith (LON:SMDS) and Dr. Martens.

Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) could also be in the spotlight after the Wall Street Journal reported that the German lender may have violated a criminal settlement with the U.S. Justice Department by its silence over an internal complaint.

Oil prices pushed higher Thursday, continuing to power ahead on increasing optimism that the new variant will not cause a significant hit to crude consumption.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s U.S. crude oil supply data from the Energy Information Administration showed a draw of 240,000 barrels for last week, less than the previous week’s 910,000-barrel draw and also below the draw of 3 million barrels indicated by the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday.

By 2 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.7% higher at $72.89 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.5% to $76.16.

Additionally, gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,784.40/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% lower at 1.1329.

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