Friday 19 January 2018

European shares lift before ECB rate decision

Blaise Robinson

European stocks climbed early this morning, lifted by growing signs of a global economic recovery, although gains were capped ahead of ECB chief Mario Draghi's press conference.

The European Central Bank is seen keeping interest rates on hold, with the decision due at 1145 GMT, while investors' focus will be on Draghi's briefing, at which he could try to dampen expectations of an interest rate rise.

At 0725 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.5pc at 1,221.96 points, gaining ground for the second day in a row and hitting its highest level since August 27.

"People are waiting for cues from the central banks, and there is just no real trend on the market at the moment," said Guillaume Dumans, co-head of research firm 2Bremans.

"There are always good intraday levels, but this is for short-term tactical moves and we recommend staying liquid."

Telecom Italia featured among the top gainers, surging 5.6pc on renewed M&A speculation.

Italian daily la Repubblica reported today that Executive Chairman Franco Bernabe plans to propose to the board a reserved capital increase to bring in a new investor. The paper said the most likely candidate was Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris.

MF daily reported an investment by Sawiris is one of three options Bernabe was looking at, including a possible offer by AT&T. A merger with Spain's Telefonica remains the "most rational" scenario, the paper said.

Despite the day's gains, the FTSEurofirst 300 is still down about 1.7pc since mid-August, as concerns over possible U.S.-led military action in Syria as well as prospects for reducing the US Federal Reserve's stimulus measures prompted investors to book profits.

Talks on how to deal with Syria's civil war were likely to dominate the G20 meeting of the world's major nations in Russia today.

Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities, felt equity markets could fall in September but then expected them to recover their upwards trajectory to finish 2013 on a strong note.

"I can see it being a nervy market this month. There could be a bit of short, sharp pain but I think we'll then rally back up towards the end of the year," he said.


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