LONDON - Markets in Europe brushed aside weakness in Asia on Thursday ahead of the latest policy announcement from the European Central Bank.
Though the ECB isn't expected to make
changes to its interest rates or announce another liquidity operation to shore
up the banking sector, investors will be interested to hear what its president,
Mario Draghi, says in his press conference. With inflation low and most
activity indicators pointing to tepid economic growth, most think he will
indicate that further easing measures are possible in the months ahead.
"It would therefore be a surprise
to see any move on rates today, but that won't mean that his press conference
won't hint at the availability of other 'powerful tools' in the central bank's
arsenal," said Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.
In Europe, Germany's DAX rose 0.4
percent to 9,536 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.2 percent to 4,270. The FTSE
100 index of leading British shares was 0.3 percent higher at 6,739.
Wall Street was poised for a solid
opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.3
On Wednesday, most stock markets
struggled amid concerns that the Federal Reserve will reduce its monetary
stimulus more aggressively than anticipated because of the strength of the U.S.
At its last policy meeting in
December, the Fed took its first step to exit its current stimulus by deciding
to trim its purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion this month. The money
created by the stimulus has helped increase liquidity through the global
financial system, and given stocks a boost.
How the stimulus is reduced over the
coming months will likely hinge on the state of the U.S. labor market. In that
context, official payrolls data Friday will be closely monitored.
Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225
shed 1.5 percent to 15,880.3 and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index
fell 0.8 percent to 2,027.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.9 percent to
Trading was lackluster across other
financial markets. Among currencies, the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.3605
while the dollar rose 0.2 percent to 104.96 yen. In the oil markets, a barrel
of benchmark crude was up 38 cents at $92.71.