European Equity Benchmarks Close Firmer On Expectations for Tone-Down US Tariffs; ECB Leaves Rates Steady But Removes Easing Bias

European Equity Benchmarks Close Firmer On Expectations for Tone-Down US Tariffs; ECB Leaves Rates Steady But Removes Easing Bias

The broad-based major European indices closed higher in Thursday’s trading session, with investors jumping back into the market on signs US President Donald Trump may tone down his tariff plans with a temporary exemption for Canada and Mexico. Trump is expected to announce his plan on Thursday between 3 and 3:30 PM ET.

Meanwhile in Europe, the European Central Bank held its key interest rates at record lows, as expected, but it signaled greater confidence in the eurozone economy and hitting its elusive inflation goal. It dropped talk of boosting its mass bond-buying program.

In economic news, permanent staff placements continued to rise across the UK in February, according to IHS Markit. The financial services firm said the rate of expansion moderated slightly since the beginning of the year, while temp billings rose at a faster pace midway through the first quarter. Although demand for staff was strong in February, overall growth of demand decreased to its slowest in over a year. Slower increases in staff vacancies were reported for both permanent and temporary positions

“Even with employer uncertainty, demand for staff continues to rise,” said Kevin Green, REC Chief Executive in a release. “At the same time candidate availability is still dropping, which means that employers in all sectors are struggling to recruit for the roles they desperately need to fill.”

Also in the UK, Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the organization’s annual conference Thursday that the biggest challenges facing UK business are not related to leaving the EU, but to the fundamentals in the domestic economic environment.

Marshall said the government should not let Brexit overshadow the issues in the domestic environment that he said need urgent attention to boost confidence, improve productivity, and create jobs.

Marshall said fundamentals must be fixed first, including funding repairs on local roads, improving capacity of railways and airports, building more houses, stabilizing the training and apprenticeship systems, and delivering a clear and easy-to-use immigration system.

In Germany, provisional data from the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) showed that price-adjusted new orders in manufacturing had decreased in January a seasonally and working-day adjusted 3.9% from the previous month. For December, revision of the preliminary outcome resulted in an increase of 3.0%, compared with November. Price-adjusted new orders without major orders in manufacturing decreased in January a seasonally and working-day adjusted 2.4% from the previous month.

In January, domestic orders decreased 2.8%, and foreign orders decreased 4.6% from the previous month. New orders from the euro area were down 5.9%, while new orders from other countries decreased 3.8% compared to December 2017. In January, the manufacturers of intermediate goods saw new orders fall 3.3% compared with December 2017. The manufacturers of capital goods showed decreases of 5.0% on the previous month, while consumer goods reported an increase in new orders of 2.4%.

And in Spain, the annual variation of the Housing Price Index in Q4 of 2017 increased 0.5% to 7.2%, according to the Spanish Statistical Institute. The annual rate of new housing prices is 7.4%, almost a point higher than the previous quarter. The annual variation of second-hand housing rose to 7.2%

In London equities, Mediclinic International led all gainers, closing up 4.9%. Meanhile, housing company Persimmon (PSN) led decliners, down 3.6% at the close. Aviva PLC fell 0.14 % after the company reported a 2% rise in 2017 adjusted operating profit.

In Frankfurt, energy company Linde topped gainers, closing up 3.5%. Deutsche Borse led decliners, closing down 1%. Hugo Boss AG fell even after the German fashion company said it would raise its 2017 dividend after net profit rose in the full year.

In Paris, STMicroelectronics led the index higher, closing up 4.4%, while real estate company Unibail-Rodamco led decliners, falling 0.8%. Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA slumped after the French retailer posted a sharp drop in 2017 profit.

The FTSE rose 0.63%, the DAX gained 0.9%, and the CAC-40 added 1.28%.

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