Europe Markets: European stocks steady amid optimism over COVID-19 treatments and reopenings

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European stocks were steady on Thursday, amid optimism over medical advances to treat COVID-19 as well as growing momentum toward opening up economies.

Up 12% over the last month, the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.01% was little changed.

It was the first chance for traders in Europe to react to the U.S. Federal Reserve decision, in which the central bank pledged not to lift interest rates until it was confident the economy had weathered the coronavirus shutdowns.

The European Central Bank also isn’t expected to make any major changes when it announces its latest decision at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, followed by the press conference from ECB President Christine Lagarde. Traders will look for clues on whether the ECB’s 750 billion euro Pandemic Emergency Purchase Plan will be enlarged.

News about Gilead Sciences’s intravenous drug remdesivir and results from Microsoft and Facebook underpinned sentiment. Separately, the White House has set up a project that will combine military, government agencies and drug companies to get a vaccine by the end of the year, according to Bloomberg News.

Of companies in the spotlight, Royal Dutch Shell RDSA, -6.77% fell after announcing it was cutting its first-quarter dividend by two-thirds in what was reported to be the first time the Anglo-Dutch oil giant had reduced its dividend in 80 years.

Banks Societe Generale GLE, -4.10% and BBVA BBVA, -3.54% traded lower after reporting first-quarter losses, as they each took loan loss provisions for the coronavirus crisis.

Airbus AIR, +4.77% rose 7% as Chief Executive Guillaume Faury told RTL radio the planemaker is in talks over state aid.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YM00, +0.12% edged up 33 points.

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