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European Stock Futures Higher; Dovish ECB Helps Tone

European stock markets are expected to open higher Friday, ending a volatile week on a positive note, helped by a supportive tone from the European Central Bank.

At 2:10 AM ET (0610 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.2% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.4% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.4%.

The ECB, as was largely expected, did not adjust its benchmark interest rate or its commitment

to purchase 1.85 trillion euro in bonds through March 2022 at its latest meeting on Thursday.

However, it did tie its new forward guidance on interest rates more closely to inflation, suggesting they aren't likely to rise anytime soon.

“With an inflation projection currently of 1.4% YoY for 2023 and the new forward guidance, interest rates will remain low for even longer,” said analysts at ING, in a note.

This policy update suggests the ECB is now one of the more dovish members of the central bank club, likely supporting the recovery the market has made from Monday’s rout following concerns surging Covid numbers, caused by the highly-transmissible delta variant, would stall the nascent global economic recovery.

The tech sector is likely to be in focus in Europe Friday following strong second-quarter reports by U.S. social media giants Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Snap (NYSE:SNAP) after the close on Wall Street Thursday.

Thales (PA:TCFP), Europe's largest defense electronics company, raised its full-year revenue target after posting first-half revenues up by 9.8% on a like-for-like basis.

Other earnings from the likes of Signify (AS:LIGHT) and Lonza (SIX:LONN) will be of interest, while U.K. telecoms giant Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) issued a trading update ahead of expectations.

The economic data slate includes a slew of surveys on the manufacturing and services sectors in Europe later Friday, which are expected to show a slight softening of activity, albeit from high levels. Additionally, U.K. retail sales rose 0.5% on the month in July, a welcome improvement after the previous month’s 1.4% slump, climbing 9.7% on the year.

Elsewhere, oil prices edged lower Thursday, stabilizing after a volatile trading week. The crude market has posted gains of around 8% over the last three days, largely recouping Monday’s slump, when sentiment was hit by worries over rising Covid cases and an agreement between top producers to add supply.

At 2:10 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% lower at $71.64 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.4% to $73.50.

Additionally, gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,803.35/oz, while EUR/USD traded largely flat at 1.1769.

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