European Stocks Largely Higher as ECB Meeting Nears


By Peter Nurse – European stock markets edged largely higher Thursday, boosted by the final approval of the massive U.S. Covid-19 stimulus package ahead of the European Central Bank’s policy meeting.

At 3:45 AM ET (0845 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded flat, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.1% and the U.K.’s FTSE index climbed 0.2%.

The U.S. House of Representatives gave its final approval to the Biden administration’s $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package on Wednesday, meaning one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history only needs the president’s signature to become a reality.

This stimulus deal is expected to give the U.S. economy, the world’s driver, a significant boost during the second half of the year. It’s also expected to give a fresh boost to stocks, with surveys showing that a good chunk of the $ 1,400 checks being sent to households will find their way into financial markets.

Attention in Europe now turns to the latest meeting of the ECB, with the central bank due to hand down its policy decision at 7:45 AM ET (1245 GMT).

“The ECB will be pressed to clarify what it means by preserving favorable financing conditions and its thoughts about the recent increase in bond yields,” said analysts at Nordea, in a research note. “Mere words are unlikely to stop long bond yields from rising further.”

The ECB did in fact quicken the pace of bond purchases two weeks ago as the volatility in bond markets took off, but that was masked by the fact that it also had big redemptions from a bond-buying program from a decade ago.

In corporate news, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) stock rose 1.3% after the Finnish telecom company signed a deal with Samsung (KS:005930) to license patents covering its innovations in video standards.

Rolls-Royce (OTC:RYCEY) stock rose 2.1% after the aircraft engine-maker stuck to its forecast that cash flow will turn positive in the second half of this year as travel picks up. However, its 4 billion pound ($ 5.6 billion) loss in 2020 was wider than the company’s own guidance.

Generali (MI:GASI) stock rose 1.7%, continuing a string of post-pandemic highs, after the Italian insurer posted a record operating profit for 2020 despite the impact of the Covid pandemic.

On the flip side, Hugo Boss (DE:BOSSn) stock dropped 2.6% after the German fashion house reported a drop in currency-adjusted sales of 26% in the fourth quarter as its stores were again closed due to the pandemic.

Oil prices rose Thursday, as the latest data from the Energy Information Administration showed that domestic gasoline supplies slid last week, by almost 12 million barrels, to the lowest in about four months, while demand rose to the highest since November. Gains were tempered by crude inventories rising by 13.8 million barrels.

U.S. crude futures traded 1.1% higher at $ 65.13 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract rose 1% to $ 68.58.

Elsewhere, gold futures rose 0.9% to $ 1,737.35/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.3% higher at 1.1966.

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