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European stocks retreat, euro dips while US shares rise

Tech stocks rallied in Hong Kong after a report said China was to impose a fine on ride hailing giant Didi and conclude a probe into the firm

European stocks retreated Wednesday as the EU took precautionary measures in the face of reduced Russian gas supplies, but Wall Street extended its rally for a second day.

The euro bobbed about before settling lower ahead of a key European Central Bank meeting on Thursday, when the ECB is expected to announce its first rate hike in more than a decade to join the fight to tame sky-high inflation.

US stocks had rebounded strongly Tuesday as companies’ earnings soothed concerns about the impact on their bottom lines from soaring inflation and rising interest rates, and the gains continued into Wednesday, a bright spot in a dismal year.

While several firms — such as Apple and Johnson & Johnson — have indicated they have concerns about the outlook, there is a feeling that the sell-off across markets could be reaching a bottom. Investors especially moved into tech shares.

And some commentators have suggested the second half of the year could see a healthy rally, despite official data continuing to show inflation continuing to rise strongly worldwide.

UK annual inflation hit a new 40-year high at 9.4 percent in June on surging fuel and food prices.

The Federal Reserve and Bank of England have raised lending rates multiple times, and all eyes now are on the ECB.

Officials have their work cut out for them as they must also try not to drive a stake through the eurozone economy, which has also been hammered by an energy crisis.

Talk of a half-point hike — instead of the quarter-point increase most expect ECB officials had signaled — has boosted the euro against the US dollar since it fell below parity last week for the first time in 20 years.

“The central bank has left the door open to super-charging the lift-off previously but given its past tendency to proceed with extreme caution, it would send quite the message about how concerned they’ve become,” said market analyst Craig Erlam at trading platform OANDA.

The European single currency caught an early updraft from a Bloomberg News article saying Russia’s Gazprom would resume deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline Thursday, albeit at reduced capacity.

Moscow shut down deliveries to Germany for technical reasons last week, but there had been fears it would keep the taps off in retaliation for European sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

The German pipeline manager on Wednesday said Russian gas deliveries are expected to resume at the previous level.

Taking no chances, the European Commission on Wednesday urged EU countries to reduce their demand for natural gas by 15 percent over the coming winter months to overcome Russia’s energy supply “blackmail.”

In a statement, the EU’s executive arm also asked member states to give it special powers to force through needed demand reductions if Russia cuts Europe’s gas lifeline.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon and therefore, in any event, whether it’s a partial major cut off of Russian gas or total cut off… Europe needs to be ready,” Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

Oil prices retreated modestly.

New York – Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 31,874.84 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.6 percent at 3,959.9 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 1.6 percent at 11,897.65 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,267.97 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 0.2 percent at 13,281.98 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 6,184.66 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 3,585.24 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.7 percent at 27,680.26 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 1.1 percent at 20,890.22 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,304.72 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0175 from $1.0226 Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1975 from $1.2002

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.96 pence from 85.19 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.5 percent at $102.61 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.6 percent at $106.69 per barrel

© Copyright AFP 2022. All rights reserved.

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