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European Stocks Open Mostly Lower; Biden-Xi Call Awaited

Stock Markets Mar 18, 2022 09:50
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By Geoffrey Smith -- European stock markets opened slightly lower on Friday but were still on course for a weekly gain, as participants awaited the outcome of key talks between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

By 4:20 AM ET (0820 GMT), the Euro Stoxx 50 was down 6 points, or 0.2% while the broader-based Stoxx 600 was flat. The best performing major index was the FTSE MIB in Italy, while France's CAC 40 underperformed with a 0.4% drop, a day after President Emmanuel Macron warned that the state may have to nationalize "certain energy companies" - a comment taken to refer to Electricite de France (PA:EDF).

Stocks look likely to finish the week higher; thanks to the ongoing diplomacy that has accompanied Russia's war in Ukraine, which has seen the two sides' positions inch closer to each other since last weekend. However, on the ground, the campaign remains as destructive as ever, with Russian rockets striking the city of Lviv in western Ukraine overnight.

A vital part of that diplomatic process - despite its location on the other side of the world - is China, whose political support for Russia has cushioned the impact of the West's economic sanctions on the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Thursday that “China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs.”

Foreign exchange markets were broadly stable although the dollar pushed back toward a six-year high against the yen after the Bank of Japan warned of negative impacts to the Japanese economy from the Ukraine war, largely through the channel of higher raw material costs. That follows similar warnings from the European Central Bank and Bank of England this week. The BoE hiked its key rate for a third straight meeting to 0.75% on Thursday, but sterling weakened as the Bank's warning about war impacts put a greater emphasis on the downside risk to growth than on the upside risk to prices. As such, traders scaled back their bets on the BoE, keeping step with the Fed as it tightens policy throughout 2022.

By 4:20 AM ET, the euro was down 0.1% at $1.1077 while the pound was up 0.1% at $1.3153. The dollar was also trading at 118.90 yen, up 0.3% on the day.

A busy week for central banks comes to an end later with the Central Bank of Russia's policy meeting. The pressure on the ruble has eased off in recent days, but it has still lost one-third of its value since the invasion. President Vladimir Putin proposed a new term for Governor Elvira Nabiullina on Thursday, days after rumors swirled about her unsuccessfully offering her resignation.

Among early movers, Danish shipping giant Maersk (CSE:MAERSKb) rose 0.4% after it warned that China's string of COVID-19 outbreaks could revive disruptions to global supply chains, while Dutch-listed Prosus (AS:PRX), which holds Naspers' strategic stake in Chinese Internet giant Tencent (HK:0700), rose 2.3% as sentiment toward Chinese stocks continued to improve gradually.

European Stocks Open Mostly Lower; Biden-Xi Call Awaited

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