European stock futures higher; U.K. consumer confidence unexpectedly rises

European stock markets are expected to open higher Friday, helped by U.K. consumer confidence edging higher in the wake of the country’s Autumn Statement, but gains are likely to be tentative as the regional economic outlook remains bleak.

At 02:00 ET (07:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.5% higher, CAC 40 futures in France climbed 0.6% and the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.2%.

There was some good news for investors to cling to Friday, with the GfK consumer confidence for the U.K. climbing to -44 in November, the market research firm GfK said early Friday.

This represents a rise from -47 in October, and was considerably better than the expected -52, even as it stayed close to record-low levels.

Additionally, U.K. retail sales rose 0.6% on the month in October, a better result than expected, although this still represents a fall of 6.1% on the year, with British consumers struggling to cope with soaring inflation and raising interest rates.

This came just a few hours after U.K. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in his Autumn Statement that the country was in recession, while announcing £55 billion (£1=$1.1904) worth of tax rises and spending cuts as Britons face a record hit to living standards.

Elsewhere, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde is scheduled to speak at the European Banking Congress in Frankfurt, and her speech is sure to be dissected for clues as to how high interest rates will climb in the Eurozone.

Fed policymakers continued to try and rein in recent market enthusiasm about a potential early pivot towards lower interest rates on signs of slower inflation, with both St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari talking about more hikes ahead.

The European banking sector will be looking to the European Central Bank as it is set to announce later Friday how much banks plan to repay of the €2.1T (€1=$1.0366) loans they have taken under its targeted longer-term refinancing operations.

In corporate news, Royal Mail stock could feel pressure Friday after postal workers announced plans to strike for six days in the run-up to the busy Christmas period in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Oil prices edged higher Friday, but are still heading for a steep weekly decline as a growing number of COVID cases in China threatened demand growth at the world’s largest crude importer.

China reported over 25,000 new COVID-19 infections on Nov. 17, the National Health Commission said on Friday, which is the highest level since April and is approaching the record high.

Additionally, fears are growing that the spread won’t ease soon as cases have spread across the populous Chinese regions of Guangzhou and Chongqing, potentially leading to new severe mobility restrictions and the crimping of economic activity.

By 02:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.7% higher at $82.20 a barrel, down over 7% week-to-date, while the Brent contract rose 0.5% to $90.22, around 6% lower so far this week.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.2% to $1,766.50/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% higher at 1.0377.

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