Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.1% to 7,417.32 and the DAX in Germany dropped 0.3% to 11,867.35. France's CAC 40 rose 0.3% to 5,464.85. Wall Street was set for a flat open. Futures for the broad S&P 500 index were almost flat at 2,894.00. That for the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.1% to 26,152.00.
The European Union has agreed to extend the cutoff date for Britain's exit to Oct. 31. The agreement made early Thursday at an emergency summit gives British Prime Minister Theresa May more time to work out a plan for the country's departure.
Lawmakers have thrice-rejected a withdrawal plan drafted by May and other European leaders. May went to the summit in Brussels seeking to postpone the departure to June 30, as the country came close to crashing out of the EU on Friday with no deal.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU was giving Britain six more months to "to find the best possible solution" to its Brexit impasse. May is expected to brief Parliament Thursday on the results of the summit but the road forward remains unclear.
"Six-and-a-half months sounds a long time, but it isn't in U.K. political terms. We have the same hopelessly divided U.K. Parliament, the same hopelessly divided Labour party, the same hated withdrawal agreement," Michael Every, senior Asia-Pacific strategist at RaboResearch, said in a commentary.
"In short, this is a can-kicking exercise that doesn't actually kick the can very far or in a very useful direction," he added. Asian markets retreated on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve released minutes of its meeting in March. While most officials believed the central bank would leave interest rates unchanged for the rest of the year, several said their views could shift with incoming data.
The indication of flexibility put markets in a "slightly soft mood," said Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC Bank. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 0.9% to 29,839.45 and the Shanghai Composite index retreated 1.6% to 3,189.96. The Kospi in South Korea was flat at 2,224.44. Australia's S&P ASX 200 slid 0.4% to 6,198.70.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 bucked the regional trend, adding 0.1% to 21,711.38. Shares fell in Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia but rose in Singapore. In other news, China reported inflation figures in March on Thursday that met market expectations. The country's producer price index rose 0.4% in March from a year ago, according to National Bureau of Statistics. This was up from February's 0.1% increase. Its consumer price index picked up 2.3% in March from a year earlier, as compared to a 1.5% gain in the previous month.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 41 cents to $64.20 per barrel. It added 63 cents to settle at $64.61 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude shed 31 cents to $71.42 per barrel. The contract gained $1.12 to $71.73 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 111.12 yen from 111 yen late Wednesday. The euro rose to $1.1283 from $1.1273, and the British pound eased to $1.3084 from $1.3095.