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Global Markets Largely Quiet Ahead of U.K. Elections -- 3rd Update

8 Jun 2017 7:29 am
By Riva Gold and Kenan Machado 

Stocks were fractionally higher Thursday as investors kept a close eye on a European Central Bank meeting, testimony by former FBI Director James Comey and a general election in the U.K.

The Stoxx Europe 600 inched up 0.2% shortly after markets opened, following a quiet session in Asia. Futures pointed to a 0.1% opening gain for the S&P 500.

The moves come ahead of an eventful day for global markets. Later Thursday, Mr. Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He worried President Donald Trump was seeking to secure his loyalty and wanted him to help "lift the cloud" the investigation of possible Russian interference with the U.S. election was casting over his administration, according to prepared testimony.

However, Mr. Comey also confirmed the president's previous statements that the director had repeatedly assured Mr. Trump that the FBI hadn't opened a counterintelligence investigation into him.

"Markets will be watching the Q&A closely, but equities already appear to have decided the testimony is unlikely to shock," said strategists at RBC Capital Markets.

The European Central Bank is also expected to provide fresh hints at its policy agenda midday following a recent improvement in European growth and inflation figures. Though no change to policy is expected Thursday, there is agreement among investors that "the end of the ultra-expansionary monetary policy in the eurozone is imminent," according to strategists at Commerzbank.

Many will watch closely to see if the central bank abandons its "easing bias," omitting the possibly of a rate cut in its language. Yields on 10-year German debt rose to 0.271% from 0.251% Wednesday, while 10-year Treasury notes were little changed at 2.184%. Yields move inversely to prices.

Results from Britain's general election are expected evening time in the U.K., with the pound last flat at $1.2972. Some investors expect the outcome to color the country's strategy for exiting the European Union.

Earlier, stocks across Asia mostly inched a touch higher, echoing very modest gains on Wall Street Wednesday.

The Shanghai Composite edged up 0.3% following robust trade figures from China. South Korea's Kospi index inched up 0.2% despite North Korea firing multiple ground-to-ship missiles into the waters between Korea and Japan. Korea's stocks have been among the best performers in Asia this year, with repeated launches last month also having little lasting impact on its market.

Japanese stocks edged down 0.4%, however, amid fresh gains for the yen and as data showed Japan's economy grew at a slower pace than initially estimated in the first quarter.

Commodity prices stabilized Thursday, with Brent crude futures up 1% at $48.54 a barrel after slumping 4.1% on Wednesday, the most in five months. copper futures rose 0.9% to $5,673 a ton.

Del Quentin Wilber and Ese Erheriene contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 08, 2017 03:29 ET (07:29 GMT)

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