European Stocks Higher; Publicis Shines Ahead of ECB Meeting

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Investing.com – European stock markets pushed largely higher Thursday, helped by some strong corporate earnings ahead of the latest policy announcement by the European Central Bank.

At 3:10 AM ET (0810 GMT), the DAX in Germany traded 0.8% higher, the CAC 40 in France rose 0.6% and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 was largely flat.

This positive start follows on from gains in Asia as well as on Wall Street overnight, rebounding from Monday’s rout on fears the rising Covid cases, starting in Asia and moving into Europe and the U.S., would derail the global economic recovery.

Helping stock markets recover have been generally positive corporate results as the start of the new quarterly earnings season. 

Publicis (PA:PUBP) stock rose 2.5% after the French advertising giant reported strong second-quarter growth, adding that its financials would make a full return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

ABB (SIX:ABBN) stock rose 1.5% after the engineering company doubled its full-year sales outlook, in the latest sign of a global manufacturing revival. It also said it’s considering a spin-off of its fast-growing unit for charging electric vehicles. 

Unilever (NYSE:UL) reported higher-than-expected underlying sales growth for the second quarter, but its stock fell 4% after it warned of surging commodity costs that ate into margins. Workspace (LON:WKP) stock 1.9% after the office-space provider said it was witnessing demand at pre-pandemic levels.

Aside from earnings, the main focus of investors Thursday will be on the European Central Bank’s policy-setting decision, due at 7:45 AM ET (1145 GMT), and the subsequent press conference from President Christine Lagarde.

The central bank recently changed its inflation target, and investors will be looking to see if this changes the course of its monetary policy, particularly after Lagarde earlier this week said the meeting will have “some interesting variations and changes”.

“We think that the ECB will strengthen its forward guidance to signal a longer period of unchanged policy rates and net purchases under the APP [Asset Purchase Program] than markets currently expect,” said Nick Kounis, Head of Financial Markets Research at ABN Amro, in a note.

Elsewhere, oil prices edged higher Thursday, continuing Wednesday’s despite strong gains after a surprise build in U.S. crude stockpiles.

The crude market has been very volatile this week, plunging on Monday on worries over rising Covid cases and an agreement between top producers to add supply, before rebounding over the last two days. 

U.S. crude inventories rose by just over 2 million barrels during the week ended July 16, the Energy Information Administration said late Wednesday, snapping a run of eight weeks of declines. 

At 2 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% higher at $70.56 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.4% to $72.50. Both contracts gained over 4% on Wednesday.

Additionally, gold futures fell 0.5% to $1,794.10/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% lower at 1.1784.

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