European Stocks Higher Ahead of ECB Meeting; AB Foods Slumps

By Peter Nurse – European stock markets traded higher Thursday, boosted by the positive close on Wall Street, with investors focussing on the latest European Central Bank policy-setting meeting.

By 03:30 ET (07:30 GMT), the in Germany traded 0.1% higher, the in France rose 0.3%, and U.K.’s climbed 0.4%.

The is widely expected to raise interest rates once more later Thursday in an attempt to combat inflation rapidly approaching double figures.

Although a hike of 50 basis points is the most likely move, matching July’s increase, with and the cut in Russian gas supply pushing energy prices even higher, the case is strong for the ECB to be even more aggressive and deliver its biggest ever rate hike of 75 basis points.

That said, the central bank faces a balancing act, with economic activity in the Eurozone already slowing significantly due to the ongoing energy crisis, pointing to a recession later in the year.

European stock markets received a positive handover from Wall Street, as the blue-chip closed Wednesday’s session over 400 points, or 1.4% higher, snapping seven sessions of consecutive declines.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion at the Cato Institute’s virtual meeting later Thursday, and investors will be looking for clues about the central bank’s thinking ahead of its next policy-setting later this month.

In corporate news, Associated British Foods (LON:) stock slumped over 7% after the U.K. conglomerate warned profit in the next fiscal year will be lower as rising energy costs and the strengthening of the weigh on its Primark fashion chain.

Melrose Industries (LON:) stock fell 0.5% after the Financial Times reported the jet and auto parts supplier plans to spin off its GKN automotive unit as a new UK-listed company.

Philips (AS:) stock fell 0.2% after the French media reported that the Paris Prosecutor’s Office has opened a preliminary investigation into a respiratory devices recall by the Dutch medical device maker.

Oil prices rose Thursday, helped by a forecast of slightly higher demand and tighter supply going into 2023 by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, although concerns over weakening global growth limited the gains.

The EIA said in its monthly report that it expects global crude demand to increase in the fourth quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, while also forecasting lower U.S. oil production this year.

This positive report was partly negated by data from the showing that U.S. crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose last week, raising concerns over slowing global oil demand.

Official is due later in the session, a day later than usual due to Monday’s Labor Day holiday.

By 03:30 ET, futures traded 0.8% higher at $82.61 a barrel, while the contract rose 0.8% to $88.66. Both contracts fell to their lowest levels since January on Wednesday, after weak economic data from China raised concerns of a global economic slowdown.

Additionally, edged 0.1% higher to $1,729.15/oz, while traded 0.1% lower at 0.9986.

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