European stocks steady ahead of ECB meeting

FILE PHOTO:The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, April 11, 2022. REUTERS/Staff
  • ECB policy announcement due Thursday 1145 GMT
  • Tesco among top FTSE 100 decliners after profit warning
  • Commodity stocks outperform

April 13 (Reuters) - European shares were little changed on Wednesday as investors digested glum inflation data and its impact on the upcoming earnings season ahead of a key European Central Bank meeting on Thursday, while commodity-linked sectors gained on supply worries.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (.STOXX) was flat, with retail stocks (.SXRP) and defensives such as real estate (.SX86P) sliding between 0.2% and 0.6%, while oil (.SXEP) and mining (.SXPP) shares rose.

"When investors see high inflation figures, they look to put money into companies that thrive in an inflationary environment, such as miners," said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

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Crude prices extended gains after Moscow said peace talks with Ukraine had reached a dead end, feeding worries about tight supplies.

A gauge of long-term euro zone inflation expectations rose above 2.40%, scaling a 10-year peak and far above the ECB's 2% target, according to data from the central bank, which is due for a policy meeting on Thursday.

European stocks were lacking direction with the meeting likely to set the tone for the weeks to come, said Raffi Boyadjian, lead investment analyst at brokerage XM.

"The ECB will decide whether to provide a timeline on when interest rates will begin to rise amid soaring prices, but even if it adopts a somewhat more hawkish stance than anticipated, it will not be able to match the Fed’s rhetoric."

While no major policy action is expected on Thursday, money markets are pricing in about 70 basis points of tightening by December. Investor worries over rising rates have roiled global markets in recent sessions.

The STOXX 600 has recovered from the sharp losses in March, but has been trading in a tight range ahead of the first-quarter earnings season.

Britain's biggest retailer Tesco (TSCO.L) fell 2.0% after warning of a drop in profits this year due to surging inflation. read more

Wall Street bank JPMorgan Chase & Co's (JPM.N) first-quarter profit slumped 42% as dealmaking slowed and credit losses rose. read more

But analysts expect profit for STOXX 600 companies to rise 25.1% in the first quarter, as per Refinitiv data, up from 20.8% seen at the start of April and 15% at the start of the year.

EDF (EDF.PA) advanced 2.4% after a report stated France is considering restructuring plans for the debt-laden power firm that include full nationalisation followed by the sale of its renewables business. read more

Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) gained 3.0% after reports French telecoms group Iliad was interested in making an offer TIM's domestic consumer service business. read more

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Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker

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