By Steve Goldstein
European stocks edged lower after the European Central Bank met expectations on its move to boost the eurozone economy, with multinational British companies getting a boost from floundering negotiations on a U.K.-European Union trade deal.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +1.00% traded 0.3% lower and the German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX +1.43% and French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 +1.50% also declined.
The ECB decided — as widely forecast — to boost the size of the pandemic emergency purchase program by €500 billion and also extended its targeted longer-term refinancing operations. ECB President Christine Lagarde will discuss the change at a press conference.
The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD +0.0171% rose as high as $1.2120 from $1.2084 on Wednesday.
The U.K. FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +1.12% climbed 0.5%, as exporters got a boost from the drop in the pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.0220% . The yield on the 10-year gilt /zigman2/quotes/211347177/realtime BX:TMBMKGB-10Y +1.71% also fell. A “lively” dinner of scallops and steamed turbot between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen concluded with an agreement to end talks on Sunday, though U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab already said he couldn’t rule out an extension.
The European Commission on Thursday proposed contingency measures if no deal is agreed, including a one-year fisheries agreement.
Negotiations on a U.S. stimulus bill continue, with hangups including whether to give aid to state and local governments, extend jobless benefits, provide stimulus checks, and provide legal immunity for businesses facing lawsuits over the spread of coronavirus.
U.S. stocks, particularly in the tech sector /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.22% , ended lower on Wednesday after a nationwide antitrust lawsuit was brought against social media giant Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.50% that seeks the separation of its Instagram and WhatsApp units. Stock futures /zigman2/quotes/209948968/delayed ES00 -0.28% drifted ahead of the ECB meeting, with the first day of trade of vacation rental marketplace Airbnb /zigman2/quotes/222990650/composite ABNB +4.73% , and the Food and Drug Administration meeting on the COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.63% and its German partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.69% also in the spotlight.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, with the U.S. on Wednesday suffering a record 3,054 deaths, which is more Americans than died during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Confirmed cases in Europe continue to drop, though they still remain elevated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Of stocks on the move, food delivery group Ocado /zigman2/quotes/207225647/delayed UK:OCDO +2.72% dropped 6%. It hiked its full-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization guidance to more than £70 million from a previous estimate of £60 million. The stock has nonetheless surged 84% over the last 12 months.
HelloFresh /zigman2/quotes/203376622/delayed XE:HFG +3.86% , the Germany-based mealkit delivery company, led the Stoxx 600 with a 6% rise. HelloFresh increased its revenue and margin guidance, citing the “continued exceptionally strong demand across most markets, partly influenced by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures.”