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Europe midday: Stocks little changed as investors eye ECB

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14:07 20/10/16

European stocks wavered in a tight range as investors sifted through earnings and exercised a little caution ahead of the European Central Bank’s latest policy announcement. At midday, the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index was down 0.1%, Germany’s DAX was up 0.2% and France’s CAC 40 was 0.2% stronger. Meanwhile, oil prices retreated following a strong rally in the previous session after data from the US Energy Information Administration showed a surprise 5.2m drawdown in crude inventories to 468.7m barrels last week and amid growing expectations of an OPEC-led production cut.

West Texas Intermediate was down 1% to £51.07 a barrel and Brent crude was off 1% at £52.15. As far the ECB announcement is concerned, no change to policy is expected. However, investors will be looking to see if President Mario Draghi gives any hints about quantitative easing as the current programme is set to end in March next year.

CMC Markets‘ Jasper Lawler said: “Traders are sitting on their hands ahead of the European Central Bank policy decision and press conference. The drop in the euro against the dollar to its lowest in nearly three months is the market positioning for hints that the quantitative easing program will be extended. Based on the ECB’s inflation forecasts, a six-month extension to September is mostly likely.”

By midday, the euro was steady versus the dollar at £1.0974, having dropped to £1.0952 earlier – its lowest level since 25 July. In corporate news, Deutsche Lufthansa flew higher after upping its profit target for the year on the back of better-than-expected business bookings. Switzerland’s Roche nudged up a touch as it reported a 3% rise in third-quarter sales and confirmed its outlook for 2016.

London Stock Exchange ticked up after it reported a rise in income and revenue for the three months to the end of September. Rio Tinto was in the black despite lowering its iron ore shipment guidance slightly after it fell 5% the third quarter, reduced by port and rail maintenance. Swiss food and drinks group Nestle fell after cutting its outlook for the year amid declining food prices.

French advertising agency Publicis lost ground as its third-quarter sales growth missed analysts’ expectations. Anglo-Swiss miner Glencore slipped after announcing plans to sell its rail coal haulage business in the New South Wales Hunter Valley for £1.14bn to Genesee & Wyoming Australia. The ECB rate announcement is at 1245 BST.

In the US, initial jobless claims and the Philadelphia Fed survey are at 1330 BST, while leading indicators and existing home sales are at 1500 BST.

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