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investing newStock Markets23 minutes ago (Sep 10, 2021 04:10AM ET)

European Stocks Higher; ECB Decision, Asian Gains Help
© Reuters.

By Peter Nurse – European stock markets edged higher Friday, with investors digesting the European Central Bank’s policy decision and the latest U.K. growth figures.

At 4:10 AM ET (0810 GMT), the in Germany traded 0.2% higher, the in France rose 0.3% and the U.K.’s climbed 0.3%.

Investors have generally reacted positively to Thursday’s news that the European Central Bank will slow its emergency bond purchases in the fourth quarter, seeing the move as only a token step towards unwinding the emergency economic aid that propped up the bloc during the pandemic.

Also helping the tone was a positive handover from Asia, with Hong Kong’s climbing nearly 2%, boosted by a rebound in Chinese gaming stocks, while news of a between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden offered hope of better relations between the two economic superpowers.

However, gains are likely to be limited after the latest U.K. release showed the country grew just 0.1% on the month in July, a sharp drop from the 1.0% growth the previous month. The month was marked by the so-called ‘pingdemic’ that forced thousands of workers to self-isolate for lengthy periods.

The figures left output 2.1% below the level in February 2020, before the pandemic struck.

In corporate news, Holcim (SIX:) stock rose 0.8% after the Swiss cement maker agreed to sell its Brazilian unit to Companhia Siderurgica Nacional for about $1 billion, cutting its debt.

Additionally, Fresenius Medical Care (NYSE:) stock dropped 3.6% after JPMorgan (NYSE:) downgraded its rating on the stock to “sell” from “neutral”, citing rising Covid-19 patient volumes and costs.

Crude prices traded higher Friday, rebounding after the previous session’s losses following the news China sold crude from its strategic reserves via public auction.

The move, believed to be a first, was undertaken “to ease the pressure of rising raw material prices,” according to the country’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration, and adds more uncertainty to a market struggling to cope with increasing Covid-19 cases.

Still, stockpiles fell last week by 1.5 million barrels, according to the on Thursday, and almost 1.4 million barrels per day of offshore oil production remains shut in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

By 4:10 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1.6% higher at $69.20 a barrel, while the contract rose 1.6% to $72.62. Both Brent and WTI futures settled at their lowest levels since Aug. 26 on Thursday.

Additionally, rose 0.2% to $1,803.40/oz, while traded 0.1% higher at 1.1842.

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