Eurozone stock markets higher before ECB

London - Eurozone stock markets recovered on Thursday awaiting policy updates from the European Central Bank, while Asian equities tumbled following a plunge on Wall Street.

Outside the single currency bloc, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was flat, held back by advertising group WPP, whose share price plummeted more than 17% after it presented a weak sales outlook.

Shares in AB InBev slumped 9.0% after the Belgian-Brazilian beer giant slashed its dividend following a slide in quarterly profits for the brewer of Budweiser.

The euro recovered against the dollar, having hit a two-month low point the day before, while oil prices edged higher.

"Somewhat contrary to expectations, a strange calm has descended across European markets, belying the volatility of the US and Asian sessions," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group.

"Some brave souls are probably hoping that the ECB will provide some warm words at its meeting today, but a change in policy from the bank seems very unlikely even as the standoff between Rome and Brussels threatens to turn into something much more serious.

"As with Brexit, neither side appears willing to step back from the edge, threatening much more trouble down the line," Beauchamp added.

Turbulence ahead for the 19-nation eurozone will not keep European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi from sticking on Thursday to plans to end massive economic stimulus, according to analysts.

Ahead of the ECB, the latest closely-watched Ifo survey of businesses in Germany showed falling confidence, as the eurozone's largest economy faces gathering clouds over the single currency area.

Asian stocks, yuan rocked

Elsewhere on Thursday, Asian stock markets closed sharply lower, tracking Wednesday's plunge on Wall Street, with trading floors awash with negativity on geopolitical concerns and following weak US economic and earnings data.

The bloodletting is the latest to hit global equities, which have been pummelled this year by a wave of problems led by the China-US trade war and rising Federal Reserve interest rates.

On top of those headwinds in recent weeks has been a brewing nuclear standoff between the US and Russia, the high-profile killing of a Saudi journalist, Brexit and Italy's budget row with the European Union.

US stocks have broadly managed to avoid the hefty selling witnessed elsewhere - even clocking up a few record highs - thanks to a strong economy and mostly positive corporate results.

However, New York has finally succumbed as investors contemplate an end to the decade of cheap credit and the imposition of steep tariffs by the US and China in their ever-deepening trade row.

The Dow and the S&P 500 wiped out their gains for the year, while the Nasdaq dived more than 4% as the under-pressure tech sector took another beating.

The selling came after data showed US home sales were at their slowest pace for nearly two years, while the Fed said firms nationwide are worried about the tariffs as well as labour shortages.

And those losses filtered through to Asia, where Tokyo was scythed 3.7% and Sydney sank 2.8% to its weakest level in a year.

Hong Kong lost 1%, with Cathay Pacific shares losing 3.8% after it admitted to suffering a major data leak affecting up to 9.4 million passengers worldwide.

The airline had fallen 6.5% to a nine-year low at one point.

However, Shanghai ended with a marginal gain thanks to a late afternoon rally with speculation state-backed funds stepped in to prop up the troubled market, which has lost a fifth of its value this year.

The dollar though jumped to ¥6.9558, the highest level since January 2017.

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