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European Stock Futures Higher; ECB Decision and U.K. Growth Figures in Focus

European stock markets are expected to push higher at the open Friday, with investors digesting the European Central Bank’s latest policy decision and the latest U.K. growth figures.

At 2:10 AM ET (0610 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.5% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.1% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.3%.

Investors have generally reacted positively to Thursday’s news that the European Central Bank will slow its emergency bond purchases in the fourth quarter, seeing the move as only a token step towards unwinding the emergency economic aid that propped up the bloc during the pandemic.

“It is not tapering but a very tentative sign that tapering could eventually come,” said analysts at ING, in a note.

Also helping the tone was a positive handover from Asia, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbing nearly 2%, boosted by a rebound in Chinese gaming stocks after Thursday’s heavy losses on a report that the Chinese government will suspend approvals for new online games.

However, gains are likely to be limited after the latest U.K. gross domestic product release showed the country grew just 0.1% on the month in July, a sharp drop from the 1.0% growth the previous month.

“After many months during which the economy grew strongly, making up much of the lost ground from the pandemic, there was little growth overall in July,” said Jonathan Athow, at the Office for

National Statistics.

In corporate news, the airline stocks could be in focus Friday the day after easyJet (LON:EZJ) announced it had rejected a takeover approach, believed to be from Hungarian discount rival Wizz Air (LON:WIZZ).

The sector has been hit hard by the mobility restrictions put in place to combat the Covid-19

virus. The U.S. airlines have recently warned that these difficulties remain live, and the offer for easyJet could well be the first move towards more consolidation in the sector.

Crude prices edged higher Friday, but are set for weekly losses following the news China confirmed it had sold crude from its strategic reserves via public auction.

The move, believed to be a first, was undertaken “to ease the pressure of rising raw material prices,” according to the country’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration, and adds more uncertainty to a market struggling to cope with increasing Covid-19 cases.

Additionally, U.S. crude stockpiles fell last week by 1.5 million barrels, according to the Energy

Information Administration on Thursday, a smaller drawdown than suggested Wednesday by the industry body, the American Petroleum Institute.

By 2:10 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.8% lower at $68.67 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.8% to $72.05. Both Brent and WTI futures settled at their lowest levels since Aug. 26 on Thursday, and are on course for weekly losses of around 1%.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.2% to $1,803.65/oz, while EUR/USD traded largely unchanged at 1.1826.

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