European stocks rise before UK budget, ECB rate call

European stocks rise before UK budget, ECB rate call

Traders await testimony from Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell for fresh signals about the direction of interest rates
Traders await testimony from Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell for fresh signals about the direction of interest rates. Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP/File
Source: AFP

European and Asian stock markets mostly rose Wednesday before a UK budget and Fed testimony and on the eve of a eurozone rate decision, while bitcoin and gold remained elevated one day after striking record peaks.

London equities climbed as traders awaited a tax-cutting budget at 1230 GMT, when Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will seek to regain political momentum ahead of a UK general election.

Eurozone stocks and the euro advanced as investors eyed Thursday's monetary policy decision from the European Central Bank, which is expected to freeze eurozone interest rates as sticky inflation prevents a cut.

Asian shares mostly grew in a choppy trading week which ends Friday with key US non-farm payrolls (NFP) data.

This should provide a steer on the health of the world's biggest economy and Federal Reserve's interest-rate outlook.

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World oil prices gained ground on rising risk appetite and signs of strong US energy demand, dealers said.

'Calm has returned'

"Financial markets were on the precipice of panic mode yesterday (Tuesday), but calm has returned as we await some key events," said XTB analyst Kathleen Brooks.

Investors will also be focused on congressional testimony by Fed chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday and Thursday, as they seek signs of when the bank might start cutting rates.

Most analysts expect highly anticipated cuts to begin later this year, as officials have voiced caution about trimming too soon while they await further inflation data.

Markets will also digest payrolls company ADP's private sector hiring report on Wednesday, ahead of the all-important NFP numbers.

"Powell is expected to ask policymakers for patience before cutting interest rates," noted Swissquote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya.

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"Sufficiently soft data would make Powell's job easier into the first rate cut, while a stronger-than-expected set of data will keep watchers wondering whether the Fed should cut rates anytime at all this year."

Bitcoin, gold

Bitcoin and gold eased somewhat one day after a record-breaking run.

Bitcoin stood at $67,185 following Tuesday's record pinnacle of $69,191.

The world's biggest cryptocurrency has soared this week on tight supplies and moves towards making bitcoin investment more accessible.

Gold changed hands at $2,128.10 per ounce, not far from its historic peak of $2,141.79.

The precious metal has rocketed on its status as a haven in times of geopolitical turmoil and elevated inflation, and as markets anticipate US rate cuts, which is weighing on the dollar.

Wall Street declined Tuesday, with the tech-rich Nasdaq ending the day 1.7-percent lower, pulled down by Apple and Tesla.

Apple's shares fell after news that iPhone sales in China were lower early this year, serving as "a stark reminder of the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China", said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

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While US stock indices are up sharply on the year, the recent rallies have relied heavily on a few mega-cap stocks.

"The mantle of this year's equity rally has been passed to gold and bitcoin," noted IG analyst Axel Rudolph.

Key figures around 1120 GMT

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,668.76 points

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 7,940.17

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.1 percent at 17,708.55

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 4,910.49

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 40,090.78 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.7 percent at 16,438.09 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,039.93 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.0 percent at 38,585.19 points (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0875 from $1.0860 on Tuesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 149.76 yen from 149.97 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2723 from $1.2707

Euro/pound: UP at 85.49 pence from 85.44 pence

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Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.7 percent at $82.59 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.1 percent at $78.98 per barrel

Source: AFP

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