China trade data beats expectations, Brexit in focus

The FTSE 100 is seen down around 17 points at 7,173, the CAC is expected to open little changed from the previous session at 5,075, while the DAX is poised to start 16 points higher at 11,183, according to IG.

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizier in China for high-level negotiations.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that talks were “going along very well,” with both sides trying to resolve a long-running dispute before a March 1 deadline.

Officials in Washington and Beijing had previously said they were hopeful a new round of trade talks, which began at the start of the week, could bring both sides closer to a comprehensive deal.

Meanwhile, Beijing reported stronger-than-anticipated trade data on Thursday, offering a welcome relief to investors concerned about a global economic downturn.

China reported exports advanced 9.1 percent in January on a year earlier, defying expectations, while imports slipped 1.5 percent.

In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares, excluding Japan, dipped 0.3 percent.

Back in Europe, investors are likely to closely monitor a flurry of earnings reports. Credit Suisse, Airbus and Commerzbank are among the major companies expected to report their latest quarterly results on Thursday.

Elsewhere, lawmakers in the U.K. are set to debate and vote on the next steps in the Brexit process later in the session. It comes as Prime Minister Theresa May continues to try to get a deal through Parliament, with time running out before the country leaves the European Union next month.

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