Europe Markets: European stocks rise on hopes of low U.S. interest rates as ECB decision awaits

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European stocks rose on Thursday in their first opportunity to react to the U.S. Federal Reserve decision, with key events on the horizon including a European Central Bank decision and the U.K. election.

The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.06%  increased 0.34% to 407.60.

The German DAX DAX, +0.09%  added 0.42% to 13202.31 and the French CAC 40 PX1, +0.10%  gained 0.4% to 5884.34.

The U.K. FTSE 100 UKX, +0.33%  increased 0.59% to 7258.85, as the country holds a general election. Polls show the Conservatives winning a plurality of the vote, but there are questions as to whether they will win enough seats to secure a majority in Parliament.

After European stock markets had closed on Wednesday, the Fed released a so-called “dot plot” showing the central bank doesn’t expect to lift interest rates in 2020. Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters the bar was high to getting the central bank to lift interest rates.

Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde is due to preside over her first European Central Bank meeting as president. While no interest-rate change is expected, traders will be scrutinizing her comments at the press conference for clues on what the central bank may do in 2020.

Channel Tunnel operator Getlink GET, -1.87%  fell 1.9% after reporting a decline in shuttle traffic during November, with truck traffic hurt by stockpiling during the previous month because of concerns over Brexit, and passenger traffic affected by U.K. election uncertainty.

Nestlé shares NESN, +0.35%  edged up 0.4% as the food and beverage giant said it is going to sell its U.S. ice cream business to Froneri, an ice cream-focused joint venture it has with PAI Partners, for $4 billion. “The focused approach of Froneri will benefit the business in the competitive U.S. ice cream environment, while Nestlé can still benefit from future profits through its stake in Froneri,” said ING analysts.

Balfour Beatty shares BBY, +4.08%  rose 4% as the U.K.-based construction contractor said its order book will surpass £14 billion and that its profit from operations will be “slightly ahead” of expectations. Analysts at Liberum Capital said one positive was that the company’s Hong Kong joint venture hasn’t been negatively affected by civil unrest.