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Stocks mostly rise as ECB pledges to maintain support

·3-min read
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde pledged to maintain stimulus for longer in light of the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus

Wall Street stocks edged higher for a third straight session Thursday after a plethora of earnings reports, while leading bourses on the other side of the Atlantic climbed as the European Central Bank pledged to keep support in place for longer.

A busy day of US results featured companies from across the economy, with railroad Union Pacific reporting a 30 percent rise in revenues, while Domino's Pizza notched higher comparable stores sales despite a tough comparison with the year-ago period when pizza orders soared during pandemic lockdowns.

Most of companies reporting scored "positive earnings surprises," said analyst Patrick O'Hare, and "the good earnings news cut across industry groups and sectors."

US economic data was mixed, with jobless claims rising unexpectedly, while existing home sales rebounded, snapping a streak of declines as prices set a new record.

The Dow mustered a 0.1 percent gain to advance for the third straight session after suffering its worst day of 2021 on Monday on worries about the Delta variant of the coronavirus and rising inflation.

"The markets appear to be coming to terms with the potential disruption from the global spreading of the Delta coronavirus variant and the likelihood that we may have reached peak earnings and economic growth rates," said a note from Charles Schwab.

- No taper talk in Europe -

In Europe, the ECB made it clear that monetary stimulus will keep flowing in the eurozone as concerns grow over economic risks from the fast-spreading Covid-19 variant.

"The euro area economy is rebounding strongly," ECB chief Christine Lagarde said. "But the pandemic continues to cast a shadow, especially as the Delta variant constitutes a growing source of uncertainty."

The highly contagious variant -- which has forced renewed restrictions in several countries -- could dampen the recovery "in services, especially in tourism and hospitality," she added.

Lagarde said the ECB's emergency bond purchases will remain in place until at least the end of March 2022, or until the ECB "judges that the coronavirus crisis phase is over".

Markets in Paris and Frankfurt climbed, while the euro retreated against the dollar and other major currencies.

"In today's meeting, the ECB confirmed that they are in no rush to raise interest rates," said BK Asset Management's Kathy Lien. "Not only did they avoid any taper talk, which is a sharp contrast to other central banks, they also amended their forward guidance to account for higher inflation tolerance."

In other markets, oil prices continued to rebound from hefty losses at the start of the week prompted by the OPEC+ agreement to boost output.

In Asia, stock markets closed higher as worries about the coronavirus' Delta variant were eclipsed by earnings reports that indicated companies were faring well.

- Key figures around 2020 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 34,823.35 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 4,367.48 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.4 percent at 14,684.60 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 6,968.30 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.6 percent at 15,514.54 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 6,481.59 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.8 percent at 4,059.05 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.8 percent at 27,723.84 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,574.73 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1772 from $1.1794 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.49 pence from 86.00 pence

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3766 from $1.3713

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.18 yen from 110.29 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.2 percent at $73.79 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.3 percent at $71.91 per barrel