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European shares kick off month on firm footing on Powell speech

European shares kick off month on firm footing on Powell speech
© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, November 30, 2022. REUTERS/Staff

 

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By Susan Mathew

(Reuters) -European shares scaled near six-month highs on Thursday, as investors cheered U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s hints of smaller interest rate hikes and China’s decision to soften its tone on strict COVID-19 restrictions.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index climbed 0.6%, after gaining 6.8% in November to log its best month since July.

Technology stocks were among the biggest boost on Thursday with traders pointing to some support from U.S. peer Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) raising its profit forecast.

Energy stocks slumped, capping gains for the broader index, as oil prices dipped amid uncertainty ahead of Sunday’s OPEC+ meeting. [O/R]

Lifting risk appetite, China was set to announce in the coming days an easing in COVID-19 protocols, after anger over the world’s toughest curbs fuelled protests across the country.

China’s stringent measures have contributed to slowing global growth, while aggressive policy tightening and an energy crisis in Europe have also fuelled worries over a recession.

Providing further relief was Powell, after he said the Fed could scale back the pace of its interest rate hikes “as soon as December.”

“European markets are indeed incorporating the speech from Powell that was well-received by markets already elsewhere. That is a main driver of what we’re currently seeing,” said Bert Colijn, senior economist, eurozone at ING.

“At the same time, if we see that (COVID) measures in China are becoming more lenient, then that would be a good sign for global economic activity.”

These developments fuel optimism that followed after data showed a smaller-than-expected rise in euro zone inflation on Wednesday, which raised the prospect of a less-aggressive monetary policy tightening by the European Central Bank.

Colijn said Thursday’s figures that showed German retail sales fell more than expected in October also made the case for a less-hawkish ECB.

Shares of British lender HSBC slipped 1.2%. The bank announced on Wednesday a possible sale of its New Zealand business and plans to close 114 branches in Britain, in the latest retrenchment by the bank as it strives to improve returns amid criticism from a top investor.

As luxury stocks dropped, France’s CAC 40 underperformed regional peers to trade flat.

Source: Investing.com

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