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European stock futures edge lower; eurozone GDP data due - European stock markets are expected to open marginally lower Thursday, with investors searching for direction ahead of the release of eurozone growth data as well as next week’s key central bank meetings.

At 02:00 ET (06:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.3% lower, CAC 40 futures in France dropped 0.2% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. fell 0.1%.

European stocks appear to be something of a holding pattern ahead of the next week’s policy-setting meetings from both the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Caution ahead of central bank meetings

The ECB is widely expected to raise interest rates by a further 25 basis points on Thursday week, with President Christine Lagarde saying earlier this week that inflation pressures remain powerful and borrowing costs will be raised further to tackle them.

However, the Fed’s next move is uncertain. Futures traders still put a 70% probability on the U.S. central bank pausing rate hikes next week, but last week’s jobs report indicated the labor market remains tight, and Tuesday’s consumer price index could be crucial.

The Bank of Canada followed the Reserve Bank of Australia's lead with a surprise 25 basis-point hike on Wednesday, adding to the uncertainty over whether the Fed will stand pat next week.

Eurozone GDP data due

Back in Europe, investors are likely to focus on eurozone unemployment figures for the first quarter and revised gross domestic product data for the same period.

The initial GDP release showed that the region showed no growth in the first three months of the year, gaining 1.2% on the year, which represented a sharp slowdown from the 1.8% growth the previous quarter.

Novartis to get additional boost from Sandoz

There are no major earnings scheduled for Thursday, but Novartis (SIX:NOVN) could be in the spotlight after the Swiss pharmaceutical giant said its generics division Sandoz is expected to expand its pipeline and generate an additional $3 billion in net sales over the next five years.

Sandoz generated about $9B in sales last year, and Novartis intends to shortly spin it off to sharpen its focus on its patented prescription medicines.

Oil retreats after mixed U.S. fuel inventories

Oil prices slipped lower Thursday as traders digested mixed U.S. fuel inventories as well as persistent concerns over the global demand outlook.

Official data, released Wednesday, showed that crude inventories unexpectedly fell during last week, but gasoline stockpiles grew for the first time in five weeks. This came as a surprise given it occurred at the start of the summer driving season, which usually results in a sharp uptick in U.S. fuel demand.

The crude market has had a volatile week. Early gains on the back of Saudi Arabia’s surprise production cut have quickly dissipated after the release of weak Chinese trade data and a swathe of weak economic readings from the U.S. and Eurozone, pointing to weak global demand.

By 02:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% lower at $72.47 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.1% to $76.85.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,960.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.0710.

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