European stocks subdued ahead of US payrolls; Informa gains on strong report

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European stocks subdued ahead of US payrolls; Informa gains on strong report
Credit: © Reuters. - European stock markets traded in subdued fashion Friday, as investors awaited the release of the widely-watched monthly U.S. jobs report in the latest European Central Bank meeting.

At 03:05 ET (08:05 GMT), the DAX index in Germany traded 0.2% lower, the FTSE 100 in the U.K. dropped 0.2%, while the CAC 40 in France traded 0.1% higher.

ECB rate cuts under discussion

The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged at record highs, as expected, on Thursday, but acknowledged that inflation is easing faster than it previously expected, potentially opening the way for rate cuts later this year.

The central bank also cut some of its growth and inflation projections, now seeing inflation at 2.3% this year, below the 2.7% projected three months ago, while the growth outlook remained weak.

That said, data released earlier Friday showed that German industrial production rose in January by 1.0% from the previous month, above the 0.6% rise predicted, and a significant improvement from the revised drop of 2.0% at the end of last year.

Revised eurozone gross domestic product data are also due out later in the session.

Expectations of interest rate cuts later in the year were also boosted in the U.S. after comments from Fed chair Jerome Powell in a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Powell said the U.S. central bank was "not far" from gaining the confidence it needs in falling inflation to begin cutting interest rates.

That suggests it would take a very strong jobs number later Friday to change the outlook for U.S. rates. Forecasts are for nonfarm payrolls to have increased by just under 200,000 in February, down from January's hefty 353,000 gain.

Informa gains after strong earnings

In the corporate sector, the quarterly earnings season is gradually coming to a close, but there are still some companies in the spotlight.

Informa (LON: INF ) stock rose 2% after the U.K. information services provider  increased revenues by 30% to £3.2 billion in 2023, with underlying profits coming in ahead of expectations.

Informa updated its guidance for this year, with its strong free cash flow meaning total dividends for the year were 84% higher year on year, with £550 million returned to shareholders via buybacks.

Crude rise on demand optimism

Oil prices rose Friday, boosted by signs of growing demand in China and the U.S., the two largest economies in the world.

By 03:10 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 1% higher at $79.70 a barrel, while the Brent contract climbed 0.8% to $83.61 a barrel. 

Data from the Energy Information Administration, released earlier this week, showed that U.S. gasoline inventories fell 4.5 million barrels last week, in a sign of a healthy demand before the start of the U.S. driving season.

Additionally, Chinese imports of crude oil rose 5.1% in the first two months of 2024 from a year earlier.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.2% to $2,169.15/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.0931.


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