European stock futures edge higher; ECB minutes, German Ifo due

By Peter Nurse - European stock markets are expected to open marginally higher in subdued trading Thursday, as investors digest the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting as well as news of fresh stimulus from China.

At 02:00 ET (07:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.1% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.1% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.1%.

The minutes from the early November FOMC meeting increased the prospect of the Federal Reserve easing the pace of its aggressive interest rate hikes going forward, helping the main equity indices on Wall Street close higher Wednesday, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Investors now largely expect the Fed to hike by 50 basis points to 4.25%-4.5% at the December policy meeting, after four consecutive increases of 75 basis points.

The European Central Bank publishes the account of its latest meeting later in the session, but markets are not expecting similar largesse with Eurozone inflation above 10% while the flash November PMI readings suggested the region had entered a recession.

European Central Bank policymaker Robert Holzmann said on Tuesday he has not decided how he will vote at the next rate-setting meeting in December but he was leaning towards an increase of 75 basis points.

Elsewhere, China announced a new rescue package for its battered property sector as well as a likely cut to the banks' reserve requirement ratio, but the surging COVID cases still dominate investor sentiment with infections hitting a record high. 

Nomura cut its forecasts for China’s economic growth for this year to 2.8% from 2.9%, and next to 4% from 4.3%, citing a “slow, costly and bumpy” reopening of the country as COVID cases surge.

The German Ifo Business Climate index for November is due later in the session, while there are a number of ECB speakers due, including Vice President Luis de Guindos, Board member Andrea Enria and Executive Board member Isabel Schnabel.

Crude oil prices fell Thursday, continuing the previous session’s selloff as traders digested the proposed price cap on Russian oil from the Group of Seven countries. 

The G7 is looking at a cap on Russian seaborne oil at $65-$70 a barrel, according to reports Wednesday, although more talks are scheduled for later Thursday as this has yet to be agreed.

The range would be higher than markets had expected, and is seen as less likely to provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin into disrupting global supply.

Elsewhere, the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.7 million barrels last week, more than expected, but both gasoline and distillate inventories rose substantially.

By 02:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.6% lower at $77.50 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.6% to $84.94. Both contracts fell more than 3% last session.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,757.15/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.4% higher at 1.0439.

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