RTTNews - The major European markets are likely to open on a subdued note Thursday after the previous day's sharp gains and ahead of the release of the key U.S. non-farm payroll report that could shed light on the pace of recovery in the world's largest economy. Economists estimate that the U.S. economy lost 365,000 jobs in June and look for an unemployment rate of 9.6%.

Wall Street ended with modest gains Wednesday amid low volumes. While the data on manufacturing activity and pending home sales came in line with expectations and resulted in an early surge, weak employment and construction spending data hurt sentiment to an extent and wiped off some early gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.68%, the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.58% and the S&P 500 index advanced 0.44%.

Crude oil futures ended lower on Wednesday after bouncing above $71 a barrel, pressured by bigger than expected increases in gasoline and distillate inventories last week. Meanwhile, traders shrugged off a larger-than-forecast draw-down in crude stocks. The U.S. Department of Energy Administration said in its weekly report that American crude oil reserves fell 3.7 million barrels in the week ending June 26, the fourth weekly drop in a row. After settling down 58 cents or 0.83% at $69.31 a barrel in New York trading on Wednesday, crude oil is now trading weaker at $69.20 a barrel, down nearly 0.20% in Asian trading.

Meanwhile, the European markets rose on Wednesday after upbeat reports on manufacturing in China, Europe and the U.S. raised optimism that the global economy is on a recovery mode. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 1.82% higher, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index advanced 1.80%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 10 index surged up 2.15%, France's CAC 40 index climbed 2.44% and Germany's DAX index rose 2.01%.

Monetary policy decisions of the European Central Bank, the Riksbank and the Central Bank of Iceland are expected to be in focus on Thursday. Most economists do not expect the ECB to change its key interest rate from its current level of 1%.

In corporate news, Europe's largest car maker Volkswagen AG' June sales fell 18 percent in June despite a rise in the sales of clean diesel-burning cars. German automaker BMW Group said that its June sales fell 20.3% to 20,849 vehicles from the 26,155 vehicles sold in the same month last year. Daimler AG said that combined U.S. sales for its Mercedes-Benz and smart micro-cars fell 26% year-over-year in June.

According to reports, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc's (RBS) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester would hold shares promised under GBP 9.74 million pay plan for an extra two years. The maximum share award would only be granted if RBS's share price rose above 70 pence.

France's state-controlled nuclear company Areva SA said on Tuesday that it plans to sell its transmission and distribution division (T&D) in a bid to raise cash to shore up its balance sheet and fund future investments.

The asset management unit of France's Societe Generale SA bought the gas gathering unit of SandRidge Energy Inc for $200 million. German stock-exchange trades tumbled 46 percent to 101.6 billion euros in June from 189.9 billion euros a year earlier, Deutsche Boerse AG said in a statement.

Max Property has entered talks to buy a GBP 270 million portfolio of industrial properties, FT.com reported Thursday. Greene King Plc announced preliminary results for the 52 weeks ended 3 May 2009, posting profit attributable to equity holders of GBP 39.5 million or 29.4 pence per share, compared to GBP 124.3 million or 89.7 pence per share last year.

AM Petrofac announced that it has received a contract worth more than US$350 million for the Kauther gas-field depletion-compression project.

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