Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Markets are waiting for the European Central Bank’s policy decision at lunchtime today. The highlight, as usual, will be the subsequent press conference by ECB president Mario Draghi in Frankfurt.
Interest rates are expected to remain on hold, but it was reported yesterday that the central bank is looking into launching another round of cheap loans to banks to prop up the eurozone economy. It is also set to downgrade its growth and inflation forecasts, reflecting the global slowdown.
David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, says hopes of another round of targeted lending nudged European stocks higher yesterday afternoon, although the main indices still finished the day in the red.
US stock markets lost ground after a higher trade deficit was reported, and also ended the day in the red. The trade gap hit a 10-year high in December, despite Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce imports, especially from China, by imposing protectionist trade tariffs.
Stock markets in Asia were also lower overnight, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng falling 0.78%, reflecting nervousness among investors over the lack of news in the trade talks between the US and China.
Madden is calling European markets down between 13 points (France’s CAC) and 42 points (Germany’s Dax), while the FTSE 100 index in London is expected to open 36 points lower.
In the UK, we are getting the latest Halifax house price index this morning, while the eurozone releases revised GDP figures for the fourth quarter. Growth is expected to remain at 0.2% on a quarter-on-quarter basis.
Away from the markets, the John Lewis partnership reports its annual results at 9.30am GMT. The employee-owned department store chain will also reveal the size of the annual bonus for its 83,000 staff – after a tough year, it may not be much (or nothing at all).
8.30am GMT Halifax house price index for February
9.30am GMT Bank of England policymaker Silvana Tenreyro speaks in Glasgow
10am GMT Eurozone employment and GDP (final numbers for fourth quarter)
12.45pm GMT European Central Bank announces policy decision
1.30pm GMT ECB president Mario Draghi holds press conference in Frankfurt
1.30pm GMT US Initial jobless claims for March
2.30pm GMT ECB to release latest growth and inflation forecasts