European stock markets edged higher Thursday at the end of a turbulent month, with investors carefully watching developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict as well as volatile energy prices.
By 3:40 AM ET (0740 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.5% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.3% and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 climbed 0.2%.
The lack of a substantial breakthrough in talks between Ukraine and Russia to end the war triggered by the Russian invasion in late February resulted in weakness in Europe Wednesday.
The tone has since improved, with Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia saying Thursday that officials from Russia and Ukraine are set to resume talks via video conference on Friday.
He added that the hope was to have enough agreed on paper in another week to be able to move toward a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky.
European stocks have suffered a very difficult quarter, with the DAX down over 8% year-to-date and both the CAC 40 and the broad-based Stoxx 600 nearly 6% lower, as the war in Ukraine put upward pressure on commodity prices, increasing stagflation fears.
Some of those concerns lessened Thursday, after oil prices slumped following reports that the U.S. is considering a massive release of crude from emergency reserves over several months in order to tackle prices which have climbed above $100 a barrel in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Biden administration could make the announcement later Thursday, the reports said, with the total release from the country’s strategic petroleum reserve potentially as much as 180 million barrels.
The International Energy Agency has also called an emergency ministerial meeting for Friday, amid speculation the Paris-based organization will attempt to coordinate a global release by other countries.
This news has overshadowed a meeting, scheduled for later in the session, of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, a group known as OPEC+, which is expected to stick to an existing deal of increasing oil production by around 400,000 barrels per day through May.
By 3:40 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 4.4% lower at $103.06 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 3.5% to $107.53.
The FTSE MIB fell by 0.21% to 25,250.20. In the cash markets, the DAX Germany fell by 0.36% to 14,552.65. CAC 40 in France fell by 0.54% to 6,705.37 while the FTSE 100 in the U.K. was down by 0.30% to 7,555.35 ,at the time of writing.