Journal De Bruxelles - Stocks extend losses as ECB eyes multiple rate hikes

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Stocks extend losses as ECB eyes multiple rate hikes
Stocks extend losses as ECB eyes multiple rate hikes / Photo: JOHN THYS - AFP/File

Stocks extend losses as ECB eyes multiple rate hikes

Stock markets moved deeper into the red on Thursday after the European Central Bank said it was planning a series of rate hikes from next month to tame runaway inflation in the single currency area.

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The ECB said after its policy meeting that it would raise interest rates for the first time in over a decade in July, bringing the curtain down on the eurozone's era of cheap money.

While the announcement had been widely anticipated, stock prices in Frankfurt, London and Paris -- which had been weaker all morning -- extended their losses and yields on eurozone countries' sovereign bonds moved higher.

"Inflation expectations are higher than anticipated, which is worrying the markets and explains the rise in long-term rates," said Guillaume Truttmann, bond trader at Meeschaert Amilton.

Over on the other side of the Atlantic, Wall Street also opened lower.

After refusing to act while other central banks around the world already started tightening monetary policy, ECB chief Christine Lagarde cautioned that the first quarter-point rate hike in July was not expected to have an immediate effect on inflation.

As a first step, the ECB said it would end its massive bond-buying stimulus as of July 1.

The central bank also sharply upgraded its inflation forecasts for this year and next year while lowering the economic growth outlook.

But for Clemens Fuest, head of the Ifo economic think tank in Munich, the move comes too late.

"It is the right step, but it comes too late," he said. "It was not acceptable that, with an inflation rate of eight percent, the ECB stuck to negative interest rates and asset purchases."

In foreign exchange, the euro softened against the dollar and pound.

Inflation around the world has reached the highest levels in decades, fuelled largely by soaring oil and gas prices.

Energy demand has surged as economies emerge from pandemic lockdowns, while supplies have been hit by the invasion of Ukraine by major producer Russia.

Oil prices fell slightly on Thursday.

- 'Gloomy summer' -

Traders were also awaiting US inflation data due Friday.

Analysts expect the Federal Reserve to stick to its hawkish path and hike US interest rates by half a point for at least three more meetings this year as it tries to bring down American consumer prices.

"Until we reach peak inflation, which will trigger a less hawkish Fed and lower recession odds, it could be a gloomy summer for global stock pickers," forecast SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

There was fresh uncertainty over the economic outlook in China as Covid fears linger over the world's second-biggest economy.

While data showed China's exports rebounded strongly in May, with factories restarting and supply chains untangling as Shanghai slowly emerged from a gruelling lockdown, the metropolis will Saturday shut a district of 2.7 million people for mass coronavirus testing.

"There are lingering concerns that China's brisk recovery could be a false dawn given that the zero-Covid strategy is staying firmly in place and that could mean rolling lockdowns will continue," noted Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter.

- Key figures at around 1340 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.1 percent at 7,506.85 points

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 1.6 percent at 14,210.49

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.5 percent at 6,351.45

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.7 percent at 3,724.65

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 32,806.43

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 28,246.53 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.7 percent at 21,869.05 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,238.95 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.5 percent at $122.94 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.8 percent at $121.11 per barrel

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 133.70 yen from 134.29 yen late Wednesday

Euro/dollar: DONW at $1.0698 from $1.0720

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2548 from $1.2535

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.24 pence from 85.54 pence