Markets take a breather ahead of ECB meet

By Roland Jackson, AFP

London, United Kingdom — European stock markets paused Tuesday as investors waited on this week’s interest rate call in the eurozone and crucial jobs data in the United States.

The European Central Bank (ECB) will unveil the outcome of its latest monetary policy gathering on Thursday, with no change expected in borrowing costs. Traders will then zero in on this Friday’s eagerly-anticipated U.S. non-farm payrolls (NFP) data, a key indicator for the health of the world’s biggest economy, ahead next week’s Federal Reserve interest rate meet. “Markets remain becalmed for yet another day, hampered by a lack of data and a general wariness ahead of the ECB on Thursday, NFPs on Friday and a Fed meeting next week,” said analyst Chris Beauchamp at trading firm IG. The region’s equities fell Monday with the financial sector hit by shock plans from Germany’s troubled Deutsche Bank to raise 8.0 billion euros (US$8.5 billion) in fresh capital. Markets had been given a shot in the arm last Wednesday from hopes of a U.S. spending spree under President Donald Trump. “Equities have been taking a breather since last Wednesday’s Trump-fuelled rally. I think we are looking for fresh direction now — Trump tax plans, ECB, Federal Reserve maybe,” added ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson. “Wait-and-see mode for now. The ECB might deliver some fresh impetus on Thursday but think we’ll be looking for U.S. to lead the way.” Further impetus came as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signalled last Friday that an interest rate increase could be on the way this month — if U.S. employment and inflation remain in line with expectations. Analysts interpreted that as a clear sign that the central bank will raise the benchmark lending rate at the March 14-15 policy meeting. “The build up to this week’s big data point — the U.S. jobs report — has offered the opportunity for some reflection for investors,” said Oanda analyst Craig Erlam. “The last few weeks has seen the focus switch from Donald Trump’s plans to revitalise the U.S. economy with tax cuts, substantial infrastructure spending and deregulation, back to the Fed — partly because we still have little idea of what the former will entail — and partly because the Fed suddenly decided to send a coordinated message that it plans to raise interest rates.”