European Stock Futures Edge Lower; Sentiment Remains Fragile

European stock markets are expected to open largely marginally lower Thursday, stabilizing after losses earlier in the week, but sentiment remains fragile as investors fret about the impact of tightening monetary policy as economic growth slows.

At 02:00 ET (06:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.4% lower, CAC 40 futures in France dropped 0.2% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. traded largely flat.

European stocks will receive the benefit of modest gains on Wall Street late Wednesday and in Asia overnight, but a meaningful near-term recovery is unlikely.

U.K. consumer confidence slipped into negative territory for the first time since the pandemic lockdown in the middle of 2020. Market research company YouGov reported that its reading of sentiment dropped 4.2 points to 98.8 in August as consumers worry about a tightening squeeze on living standards.

Policymakers in Europe face the delicate task of balancing tackling soaring inflation on the back of high energy costs with risks of sharp slowdowns in their economies.

At the moment the inflation battle is uppermost in their minds, with the European Central Bank hiking interest rates by a hefty 75 basis points on Thursday, just weeks after a 50 basis point move, and promising several more steps over the coming months.

With this in mind, Barclays expects a recession in Europe in the first half of 2023, with the U.K. bank forecasting that the Eurozone economy will contract more than 1% over the calendar year.

French inflation data is due for release later in the session, and is expected to show the annual rate falling to 5.8% in August, down from 6.1% in July, but the month-on-month rate rising 0.4%, from 0.3%.

Hot inflation data in the U.S. earlier in the week largely cemented another substantial rate increase by the Federal Reserve next week, which weighed heavily on global stocks at the time.

In corporate news, Novartis will be in the spotlight after the Swiss pharmaceutical giant announced that it is the subject of an investigation by the country’s competition commission into patent use.

Oil prices stabilized Thursday, trading in tight ranges after data from the Energy Information Administration showed that crude inventories in the U.S., the largest consumer in the world, rose more than expected last week, suggesting weaker fuel demand.

However, Wednesday’s report by the International Energy Agency has helped balance the market, as it stated the organization expects widespread switching to oil from gas for heating purposes, saying it will average 700,000 barrels per day in October 2022 to March 2023 – double the level of a year ago.

By 02:00 ET (06:00 GMT), U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% higher at $88.52 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.1% to $94.02.

Additionally, gold futures fell 0.7% to $1,697.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% lower at 0.9962.

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