Germany's DAX gained 0.3 percent to 11,450 and the CAC 40 in France was close to flat at 5,304. U.S. markets appeared headed for a subdued open, with the future contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining less than 0.1 percent at 25,678 and that for the Standard & Poor's 500 also almost flat at 2,812.
U.S. trade negotiators arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a new round of talks aimed at ending a tariff war over China's technology ambitions. Chinese and U.S. officials have suggested that progress has been made toward resolving the conflict, which has disrupted trade in everything from soybeans to medical equipment.
The talks were to begin with a working dinner Thursday and last the entire day Friday. Chinese officials are expected to return to the U.S. in early April. Meanwhile, markets seem to be taking the prolonged uncertainty over Brexit in stride.
With the countdown to Britain's departure from the EU looming on Friday and no Brexit deal on hand, the EU last week granted a delay. It said that if Parliament approves the proposed divorce deal this week, the U.K. will leave the EU on May 22. If not, the government has until April 12 to tell the 27 remaining EU countries what it plans to do: leave without a deal, cancel Brexit or propose a radically new path.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 1.6 percent to finish at 21,033.76 and the Shanghai Composite index sank 0.9 percent to 2,994.94. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added nearly 0.7 percent at 6,176.10. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.8 percent to 2,128.10, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.2 percent to 28,775.21. Shares were mixed in Southeast Asia and fell in Taiwan.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 72 cents to $58.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 0.9 percent to settle at $59.41 a barrel Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gave up 77 cents to $66.06 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 110.35 yen from 110.51 yen. The euro fell to $1.1226 from $1.1244.
Matt Ott in Madrid contributed to this report.