EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Search For Firm Footing, With ECB, U.K. Election On Deck

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

ECB may reduce inflation forecasts

Continue Reading Below

Stocks across Europe swayed Thursday, with investors largely in wait-and-see mode ahead of the European Central Bank's policy decision and results from the U.K.'s general election.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index ) was up 0.1% at 389.53, trimming a rise of 0.3% earlier in the session, and most major regional indexes dipped in and out of positive territory. Tech, utility and consumer-goods shares were higher, but health care, telecom and basic material shares struggled.

The benchmark on Wednesday closed down 0.1% (European%20stocks%20wobble%20into%20the%20close%20ahead%20of%20%e2%80%98Super%20Thursday%e2%80%99) at a three-week low and a third straight loss.

"Thursday promises to be a massive day for financial markets with major risk events taking place in the U.K., eurozone and U.S. that could create substantial volatility throughout the day," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

In the U.K., polls opened at 7 a.m. London time, or 2 a.m. Eastern Time. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in April called a snap general election (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/whats-a-snap-election-and-why-does-uk-prime-minister-theresa-may-want-one-2017-04-18) in a bid to gain more seats for her Conservative Party, and so strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-adds-another-layer-of-complexity-analysts-react-to-surprise-snap-election-call-2017-04-18).

Continue Reading Below

ECB: At 12:45 p.m. London time, or 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time, the ECB which will release details of its policy meeting. Policy makers led by President Mario Draghi may reduce inflation forecasts, according to media reports.

See:Why ECB can take only 'baby steps' toward ending ultraloose monetary policy (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/draghis-ecb-may-take-baby-steps-toward-ending-ultraloose-monetary-policy-2017-06-06)

"We expect the ECB to 'tighten' its communication ... by acknowledging the strength of recent hard and sentiment data and declaring that the risks to the economic outlook might now be balanced. We also expect the ECB to drop its interest-rate easing bias," said economists at UBS in a June 1 note.

The ECB may start to taper quantitative easing as of January 2018, over six to nine months, with a decision likely due in September, UBS said.

The euro on Thursday was trading at $1.1248, compared with $1.1257 late Wednesday.

The euro-dollar pair "has rallied sharply, as a result of a reduction in political risk following the French elections, market expectations for a less dovish message from the ECB, and some broad dollar weakness," added UBS. "From a longer-term perspective, we remain bullish, but in the near-term, risk-reward has worsened given the sharp recent rise, and risk to long positions has become more symmetric."

U.K. election: The FTSE 100 was up 2 points at 7,480, but has been darting between small gains and losses. Keeping some pressure on the index was the pound , which traded at a two-week high.

The more U.K. domestically focused and mid-cap FTSE 250 index also seesawed during the session.

Read:U.K. election -- these are the stocks and sectors to watch once the result is in (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-for-a-shake-up-among-uk-stocks-after-thursdays-election-2017-06-06)

"The most undesirable outcome is surely a hung parliament that produces both domestic political uncertainty and, more importantly, uncertainty and delays in Brexit negotiations," which could "therefore be devastating for sterling," said Oanda's Erlam.

"While the knee-jerk reaction to this may also be bad for the FTSE, as we saw after the EU referendum, we could see this bounce back quite quickly with the weaker currency benefiting its mostly outward facing companies."

Read:This is the worst that could happen to the pound in the U.K. election -- and it's not Jeremy Corbyn (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-the-worst-that-could-happen-to-the-pound-in-the-uk-election-and-its-not-jeremy-corbyn-2017-06-07)

Stock movers: Auto Trader Group PLC shares (AUTO.LN) fell 4.7% as the online car sales website operator offered a cautious comment in its report of higher yearly pretax profit and sales (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/auto-trader-full-year-profit-rises-2017-06-08).

Indexes: Germany's DAX 30 was up 0.3% at 12,708.33, while France's CAC 40 rose 0.2% to 5,274.32. Spain's IBEX 35 picked up 0.3% at 10.901.50.

Economic news: The eurozone economy grew faster than initially estimated (https://www.wsj.com/articles/eurozone-economy-grows-at-fastest-rate-since-2015-1496912402) in the first quarter of 2017. Gross domestic product expanded by 0.6% in the period, up from a previous reading of 0.5%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 08, 2017 05:28 ET (09:28 GMT)