Europe stocks steady ahead of ECB, China surges

AP and AFP

TOKYO/HONG KONG–European stocks were little changed Thursday ahead of an European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting while Asian markets rose, led by Shanghai and Tokyo, as investors bet on more stimulus in China and a victory for Japan’s pro-business ruling party in elections this month.

France’s CAC-40 was steady at 4,393.24 while Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent to 9,994.50. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,722.27.

The Dow and S&P 500 bolted to fresh record highs Wednesday after a Federal Reserve report showed the U.S. economy was growing amid widespread optimism about the outlook. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 33.07 points (0.18 percent) to 17,912.62, its second straight record close, while the S&P 500 gained 7.78 (0.38 percent) at 2,074.33, also a record. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 18.66 (0.39 percent) at 4,774.47. Banking stocks Citigroup and Dow member JPMorgan Chase gained 1.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Bank of America rose 1.1 percent. Some oil-related stocks also gained. ExxonMobil advanced 0.8 percent, Schlumberger rose 1.8 percent and ConocoPhillips jumped 2.3 percent. Puma Biotechnology plummeted 12.2 percent after it pushed back the time frame for seeking regulatory approval for a new drug it is developing to treat early-stage breast cancer. Following talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Puma expects to file in the first quarter of 2016 instead of the first half of 2015. Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury held steady at 2.29 percent, while the 30-year dipped to 2.99 percent from 3.00 percent Monday. Bond prices and yields move inversely. ECB president Mario Draghi is expected to speak forcefully Thursday about the bank’s willingness to launch more stimulus to support the struggling economy. Strong action, however, will likely wait until the first months of next year. More stimulus could include large-scale purchases of government bonds, a step which involves pushing newly created money into the economy to raise growth and inflation. It’s a tool the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan have all used.

Asian markets rallied for a third straight day Thursday. Tokyo rose 0.94 percent, or 166.78 points, to 17,887.21 and Seoul added 0.85 percent, or 16.70 points, to close at 1,986.61, while Sydney put on 0.88 percent, or 46.98 points, to 5,368.8. Hong Kong jumped 1.72 percent, or 403.94 points, to 23,832.56, while Shanghai surged 4.31 percent, or 119.93 points, to 2,899.46.