European stocks steadied Thursday as traders balanced recent sharp falls in world oil prices against fresh stimulus measures by the European Central Bank and China.
Around midday in London, the benchmark FTSE 100 index stood at 6,463.09 points, down 0.57 percent compared with Wednesday's close.
The CAC 40 in Paris eased 0.08 percent to 4,225.12 points while Frankfurt's DAX 30 won 0.28 percent to 9,826.71.
"It has been a mixed morning for European equity markets with some bourses showing signs of consolidation after three days of losses," noted Atif Latif, head of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers in London.
- Euro flattens -
The euro was almost flat at $1.2449 from $1.2446 late in New York on Wednesday, as the European Central Bank's latest liquidity injection for the region's banking sector dashed market expectations.
World oil prices meanwhile rebounded Thursday, after falling sharply to fresh five-year lows a day earlier when OPEC cut its forecast for demand in 2015 and US stockpiles saw a surprise surge, analysts said.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery rose 44 cents to $61.38, having hit a July 2009 low of $60.43 on Wednesday.
Brent crude for January was up 60 cents at $64.84 in late Thursday morning trade, having hit a five-year trough of $63.56 the day before.
"Going forward I expect heavy oil prices to continue to weigh on any rallies in the stock markets, with oil stocks having further to fall," noted Alpari analyst Craig Erlam.
The sliding oil prices have also hurt Russia, with the central bank forced to jack up rates again by one percentage point to 10.5 percent to shore up the ruble. But the Russian currency swiftly touched a record low of 55.45 against the dollar and 68.98 against the euro.
Sentiment was lifted somewhat after China's central bank stepped up efforts to pump more cash into its banking system with a $65-billion fund injection, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
The People's Bank of China (PBoC) on Wednesday injected around 400 billion yuan into the interbank market where banks borrow from each other, Dow said, citing people familiar with the matter.
The latest injection has not been made public by the PBoC for fear that the market might read it as a strong signal of a broad monetary easing.
Across in Frankfurt, the ECB announced it had pumped more liquidity into the financial system in a bid to boost the eurozone economy -- but analysts said the uptake was disappointing and stoked hopes of quantitative easing (QE) stimulus.
The Frankfurt-based central bank said that 306 banks had borrowed 129.8 billion euros ($162 billion) in the second round of its lending programme of cheap, long-term loans aimed at boosting the economy.
Most analysts had forecast an uptake of around 150 billion euros under the Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation (TLTRO), which banks must repay by September 2018.
- QE hopes -
"The prospect of quantitative easing from the ECB, after the disappointing TLTRO take-up, is also supporting the markets today and are likely to continue to do so," added Erlam.
By pumping more liquidity into the financial system, the Frankfurt-based central bank aims to boost the eurozone economy via private-sector loans and, in turn, halt a stubborn drop in inflation.
Elsewhere on Thursday, the euro increased to 79.53 British pence from 79.21 late on Wednesday in New York. The British pound dipped to $1.5656 from $1.5712.
On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold declined to $1,219.50 an ounce from $1,229 late on Wednesday.