European stocks opened higher Thursday as investors look ahead to an anticipated announcement of easing measures from the European Central Bank (ECB), while trade tensions between the U.S. and China showed signs of thawing.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 climbed 0.2% after the opening bell, basic resources jumping out to 1.3% gains while oil and gas stocks slipped 0.8%.
The ECB rate decision is expected at 12:45 p.m. London time, with markets widely anticipating a significant package of monetary stimulus from the central bank, but analysts and ECB officials are striking slightly different tones on its magnitude.
Stocks received a boost Wednesday after President Donald Trump announced a two-week delay to the increased tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports expected on October 1. Trump said pushing the imposition of the duties back to October 15 was intended as a “gesture of good will” as the world’s two largest economies continue a two-year long trade war.
Asian stocks traded mostly higher Thursday afternoon on the news, with Japan’s Nikkei leading gains.
Back in Europe, Brexit remains in focus despite the suspension of the U.K. Parliament. The British government bowed to pressure to publish its plans for a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday night, revealing warnings of severe disruption to cross-Channel routes which would impact the supply of medicines and certain types of fresh foods.
The “Operation Yellowhammer” paper also anticipates protests and counter-protests, and a possible rise in public disorder.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday reiterated his pledge to ditch the controversial Irish “backstop” from the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May. European leaders have previously said the mechanism, which relates to maintaining a seamless border on the island of Ireland, is non-negotiable.
In corporate news, Britain’s Finance Ministry has said it will scrutinize a $36.6 billion takeover offer from Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing for the London Stock Exchange, while Italian leaders have also vowed to monitor the deal closely to ensure Italy’s stock exchange is protected should the deal go through.