European stocks are expected to start the session with a cautious tone Wednesday as investors await a key budget statement from the U.K. government.
Britain's FTSE 100 is expected to open 7 points lower at the start of trading, according to financial bookmakers IG, with modestly declines forecast for Germany's DAX and France' CAC-40 benchmarks.
German stocks could get a further boost from stronger-than-expected industrial production data, which offset a worrying drop in industrial orders that had stoked concerns of a slowdown in Europe's biggest economy. Industrial production in January increased by 2.8% from the year ago period, the Economy Ministry said, driven by a 3.7% surge in manufacturing output.
U.K. investors, however, will likely wait for Chancellor Philip Hammond's budget statement at 12:30 GMT, in order to gauge broader sentiment.
Asia stocks, however, notched their third consecutive session gains after better-than-expected trade data from China and slow but steady improvements in the underlying Japanese economy. The region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was marked 0.1% higher by 07:00 GMT as investor sentiment was boosted by improving China imports, which rose by a staggering 44.7% on a yuan-denominated basis in February amid further evidence of growing domestic demand in the world's second-largest economy.
Japan's Nikkei 225, however, couldn't shrug-off the affects of a steady yen, which traded at 113.75 against the U.S. dollar, and notched its third straight decline despite an upward revision of its fourth quarter GDP growth rate linked to better-than-expected levels of capex and business investment.
Global oil prices remained under pressure, with headwinds from both the stronger U.S. dollar and stronger-than-expected gains in commercial crude inventories in the United States. Private sector data from the American Petroleum Institute showed stocks rose 11.6 million last week, setting up expectations for Wednesday's official figures from the Energy Information Agency.