EUROPE MARKETS: European Stocks Buoyed By Earnings Before ECB's Draghi Steps On Stage

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Euro tries to cling to $1.15 before ECB meeting

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European stocks gained on Thursday, as investors sifted through corporate earnings reports while waiting to hear what the European Central Bank will say about monetary policy.

The Stoxx Europe 600 tacked on 0.3% to 386.75, led by oil and gas, basic materials and telecom shares. The utilities sector was the only one losing ground. The pan-European benchmark on Wednesday closed up 0.8%, (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-advance-helped-by-upbeat-earnings-2017-07-19) aided by well-received earnings reports.

Earnings season: A new wave of financial updates rolled in on Thursday, with Publicis Groupe SA (PUB.FR) shares rising 1.7%. The French advertising heavyweight confounded expectations by posting a rise in second-quarter profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/publicis-profit-up-as-us-revenue-turns-positive-2017-07-20) as U.S. revenue turned positive.

Unilever shares (ULVR.LN) picked up 0.9% after the maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and other consumer goods said reported a sharp rise in first-half profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/unilever-posts-profit-gain-lifts-margin-guidance-2017-07-20), making good on its vow to improve performance after rebuffing a Kraft Heinz Co. bid.

But on the downside, shares of Nordea Bank AB (NDA.SK) dropped 5.4% after the Swedish bank's second-quarter profit of 743 million euros ($855.7 million) missed expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nordea-profit-falls-domicile-decision-in-sept-2017-07-20).

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ECB taper watch: Investors will be waiting to hear what the ECB intends for its program of bond buying -- whether it will scale it down in 2018 for an eventual wind-down.

Read:Why Mario Draghi can't back down from ECB taper hints (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-mario-draghi-cant-back-down-from-ecb-taper-hints-2017-07-19)

The central bank is scheduled to release its statement on monetary policy at 1:45 p.m. Frankfurt time, or 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time. ECB President Mario Draghi will speak to the press at 2:30 p.m. Frankfurt time.

"[I]n an attempt to prepare the market, Mario Draghi is expected to hint at a scaling back of their asset purchase program towards the end of the summer," wrote Konstantinos Anthis, a researcher at ADS Securities.

"The euro has had a very good run in recent weeks. Having a strong currency is a plus for the European economy but it is also stopping a rise in inflation, so is there a case for Draghi to sound positive but not over the moon," he added.

The euro traded at $1.1504, down $1.1516 late Wednesday in New York, ahead of the policy update. In recent sessions, the shared currency climbed to a 14-month high above $1.15.

Individual indexes: In Germany, the DAX 30 index popped up 0.7% to 12,540.29.

France's CAC 40 index rose 0.5% to 5,244.39, and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 was 0.5% higher at 7,469.89.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 20, 2017 05:26 ET (09:26 GMT)