Europe Markets: European stocks inch up ahead of ECB meeting, with FTSE 100 boosted by lack of progress on trade talks

European stocks inch up ahead of ECB meeting, with FTSE 100 boosted by lack of progress on trade talks

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European stocks inched higher Thursday ahead of a highly-awaited European Central Bank meeting, with multinational British companies getting a boost from floundering negotiations on a U.K.-European Union trade deal.

The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.05% opened with little change at all, and the German DAX DAX, +0.02% and French CAC 40 PX1, +0.28% sported small advances.

The U.K. FTSE 100 UKX, +0.47% climbed 0.5%, as exporters got a boost from the drop in the British pound GBPUSD, -0.74%. A “lively” dinner of scallops and steamed turbot between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concluded with an agreement to end talks on Sunday, though U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab already said he couldn’t rule out an extension.Negotiations on a U.S. stimulus bill continue, with hangups including whether to give aid to state and local governments, extend jobless benefits, provide stimulus checks and provide legal immunity for businesses facing lawsuits over the spread of coronavirus.

The European Central Bank is meeting with expectations of more stimulus to aid the eurozone economy that has been hurt by a second wave of lockdowns. Expectations include a €500 billion increase to the ECB’s Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, though analysts at Bank of America say the central bank will move to an open-ended plan.

U.S. stocks, particularly in the tech sector COMP, -1.94%, ended lower Wednesday after a nationwide antitrust lawsuit was brought against Facebook that seeks the separation of its Instagram and WhatsApp units. Stock futures drifted ahead of the ECB meeting, with the first day of trade of Airbnb ABNB, also in the spotlight.

The coronavirus continues to spread, with the U.S. on Wednesday suffering a record 3,054 deaths, which is more Americans than died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Confirmed cases in Europe continue to drop, though they still remain elevated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Of stocks on the move, food delivery group Ocado OCDO, -2.84% dropped 6%. It hiked its full-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization guidance to more than £70 million from a previous estimate of £60 million. The stock has nonetheless surged 84% over the last 12 months.

HelloFresh HFG, +5.78%, the Germany-based mealkit delivery company, led the Stoxx 600 with a 6% rise.

Credit: MarketWatch

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