European shares opened higher and the single currency languished near two-week lows on Thursday as investors waited to see if the European Central Bank will prepare the ground for further stimulus measures at its policy meeting later.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.6% at 1,049.52 points after losing ground on Wednesday as weak data on both sides of the Atlantic rekindled concerns about the strength of global growth.
ECB policymakers, who will face demonstrators protesting against Spain's harsh austerity measures when they meet in Barcelona, are widely expected to leave the main interest rate unchanged at a record low of 1%.
But expectations have risen that the central bank will point to recent data showing the region's slide into a deepening recession and rising unemployment to hint at a policy change.
"Given the recent weakness in the EMU economy indicators, we suspect the ECB will leave the door open for further action, should the economic scenario deteriorate further," Newedge strategist Annalisa Piazza said.
The euro was virtually unchanged at $1.3160 after falling as low as $1.3122 on Wednesday on the depressing economic news.
Before the ECB meeting, recently downgraded Spain will test sentiment for riskier euro zone government debt with a small auction of new three- and five-year bonds. The country's borrowing costs are expected to rise more than a percentage point.
Ahead of the sale, June German Bund futures were 11 ticks lower at 141.62, edging back from record highs hit the previous day.