European markets: European Central Bank meeting, tapering, in focus – CNBC

LONDON — European stocks retreated on Thursday as investors in the region watched for announcements from the European Central Bank.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.4% in early trade, with travel and leisure stocks shedding 1.5% to lead losses as almost all sectors and major bourses slid into negative territory.

All eyes are on the ECB on Thursday, with market players keen to hear the bank’s outlook on inflation, interest rates and hints on when it might start tapering its massive asset-purchase program despite uncertainty over economic growth and Covid.

The ECB announces its latest monetary policy decision at 12:45 p.m. London time and holds a press conference shortly afterward.

Read more: ECB to kick off its tapering debate as inflation surges to a 10-year high

Elsewhere overnight, Asia-Pacific markets mostly fell on Thursday, as a regulatory crackdown from the Chinese government continued to hit Hong Kong-listed gaming and education stocks.

U.S. stock futures also pulled back in early premarket trade on Thursday as investors remained cautious over the economy.

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Dysfunction in the U.S. labor market amid the Covid-19 pandemic was reinforced Wednesday when the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed job openings outnumbered the unemployed by more than 2 million in July.

Investors will be watching for the latest weekly jobless claims data, set for release Thursday morning U.S. time, for a greater look at the employment picture. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected 335,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week, compared to the previous week’s 340,000.

Earnings came from Lloyd’s of London, Morrisons and Superdry on Thursday.

In terms of individual share price movement, Genus shares tumbled more than 10% in early trade after missing full-year profit expectations, while Peel Hunt downgraded the British biotech company’s stock to “hold” from “buy.”

Easyjet plunged 9.9% after announcing a discounted rights issue, aiming to raise £1.2 billion ($1.65 billion) to fund its pandemic recovery. The British airline also revealed on Thursday that it had recently rejected a takeover offer.

At the top of the Stoxx 600, Swedish manufacturer Assa Abloy gained 6.8% after agreeing to buy the hardware and home improvement division of U.S. company Spectrum Brands.

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