European stocks closed slightly higher Thursday as the European Central Bank confirmed its asset purchase program will end in the third quarter.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.54% ended up 0.69% at 459.91 with travel and leisure stocks gaining while technology fell.
The ECB kept its monetary policy unchanged but confirmed it will end its bond buying in the third quarter. Once the bond buying program is completed, the ECB is expected to begin hiking interest rates, following the same path as the Bank of England and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
“Today’s monetary policy statement leaves the ECB’s guidance almost unchanged: policymakers expect to end net asset purchases in the third quarter and to raise interest rates “some time” after that,” said Andrew Kenningham, Chief Europe Economist, at Capital Economics. “While this may disappoint those who had expected it to announce a firmer or earlier timetable for policy tightening, we still think the ECB will end up moving a bit sooner and further this year than it currently anticipates. We have pencilled in three 25bp rate hikes for the second half of this year.”
Swedish telecoms company Ericsson /zigman2/quotes/208932705/composite ERIC +0.41% dropped 8.2% after warning that it will likely be fined by U.S. regulators for its handling of a bribery investigation in Iraq. The company also reported a fall in quarterly earnings following its exit from Russia.
Investors in Europe are also monitoring the war in Ukraine . A Russian missile cruiser was attacked and damaged by Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea early on Thursday, forcing the entire crew to be evacuated.
In London, the FTSE /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.89% rose 0.45% to 7,614.25.
A sixth Covid-19 vaccine has been approved in the U.K., after the country’s health regulator gave the green light to French company Valneva’s /zigman2/quotes/206365222/delayed UK:0OB3 0.00% shot.
U.K. and European markets are closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.