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European Markets Finish Mixed Ahead Of U.K. Election Results

The European markets ended Thursday's session with mixed results, but were little changed overall. Investors were in a cautious mood ahead as they await the results of today's election in the UK. Traders were also keeping a close eye on today's testimony by former FBI Director James Comey before Congress.

The European Central Bank left its key interest rates and massive monetary stimulus unchanged for a tenth successive policy session, but made a subtle change to its forward guidance by omitting the mention of lower levels for interest rates in future.

"The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases," the ECB said in a statement.

The ECB tweaked the language of this statement, which in April read "present or lower levels" for interest rates.

"If the outlook becomes less favorable, or if financial conditions become inconsistent with further progress towards a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation, the Governing Council stands ready to increase the programme in terms of size and/or duration," the bank said.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday unveiled the bank's latest set of macroeconomic projections that revealed an upgrade to the region's growth outlook and a lowering of the inflation projections.

The euro area growth forecast for this year was raised to 1.9 percent from 1.8 percent. The outlook for next year was raised to 1.8 percent from 1.7 percent. The growth projection for 2019 was boosted to 1.7 percent from 1.6 percent.

The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook are considered to be broadly balanced, Draghi said.

Inflation projection for this year was trimmed to 1.5 percent from 1.7 percent. The outlook for next year was slashed to 1.3 percent from 1.6 percent. The forecast for 2019 was cut to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent.

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index advanced 0.01 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone blue chip stocks increased 0.42 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 0.05 percent.

The DAX of Germany climbed 0.32 percent, but the CAC 40 of France fell 0.02 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. declined 0.38 percent and the SMI of Switzerland finished lower by 0.73 percent.

In Frankfurt, German utilities extended gains from the previous session, with RWE rising 2.30 percent and E.ON climbing 4.03 percent.

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen rallied 4.97 percent after the company took over the coatings and pressroom chemicals operations in the EMEA region of its strategic partner Fujifilm Europe BV.

Rocket Internet fell 1.69 percent after Swedish investment company Kinnevik said it is selling its remaining 6.6 percent stake in the German e-commerce company.

In Paris, Euler Hermes advanced 0.08 percent after Bloomberg reported that German insurer Allianz is exploring a plan to take the French credit insurance company private.

In London, Petrofac jumped 4.13bere percent after it signed a long-term framework agreement with Petroleum Development Oman.

Berendsen soared 11.02 percent after the company finally agreed to a takeover offer from French laundry services group Elis.

Eurozone's economy expanded more-than-initially estimated in the first quarter on domestic spending. Gross domestic product climbed 0.6 percent sequentially, faster than the 0.5 percent growth estimated previously, latest data from Eurostat showed Thursday. The economy grew 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Germany's industrial production recovered in April after falling slightly in March, figures from Destatis showed Thursday. Production advanced 0.8 percent in April from March, when it dropped by revised 0.1 percent. The pace of growth was also faster than the expected 0.5 percent.

The French trade deficit increased in April from a month earlier, as exports fell faster than imports, data from the customs office showed Thursday. The trade deficit widened to EUR 5.5 billion in April from EUR 4.8 billion in the previous month.

The house price balance in the United Kingdom was down in May, the latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed on Thursday. The house price balance declined to +17 in May from +22 in April. It was expected to fall to +20.0. Moreover, British house prices grew at their weakest rate since August 2016.

China's exports increased more-than-expected in May on robust foreign demand, but a double-digit expansion in imports weighed on the trade balance.

In dollar terms, exports advanced 8.7 percent year-on-year in May, the General Administration of Customs said Thursday. Shipments were forecast to climb 7.2 percent after gaining 8 percent in April.

At the same time, imports logged an annual growth of 14.8 percent, bigger than the expected 8.3 percent and April's 11.9 percent rise.

As a result, the trade surplus rose to $40.8 billion from $38 billion a month ago. The surplus was below the expected level of $47.8 billion.

After reporting increases in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the two previous weeks, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a pullback in initial jobless claims in the week ended June 3rd.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 245,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level of 255,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to drop to 240,000 from the 248,000 originally reported for the previous week.

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