Market Overview: Markets edge higher anticipating ECB stimulus plan

US stocks finished Wednesday’s volatile session with marginal gains as investors expect the European Central Bank to unveil the monetary stimulus program at its meeting on Thursday. Investor confidence was further boosted by rising oil prices. The market advance was capped by declines in IBM, which fell for 3.1% and issued a lower than expected 2015 profit target. The ICE US Dollar Index, a measure of the dollar’s strength against a basket of six currencies, fell 0.12% to 92.9200, dragged lower by a slightly stronger euro. Today at 14:30 CET the Initial Jobless Claims for week ended January 16 and Continuing Claims for week ended January 10 will be released in US. The tentative outlook is positive for US dollar as jobless claims are expected to fall, and a bigger than expected reduction in initial claims may further strengthen the US dollar. At 16:00 CET the November House Price Index will be released in US. The increase in housing prices is expected to fall to 0.4% from 0.6% in the previous month, indicating slow but continued recovery of housing market.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

European stocks hit a seven-year high as investor sentiment was boosted by reports that the ECB’s executive board has proposed bond purchases of €50 billion ($58 billion) per month from March that would last for a minimum of one year, totaling €600 billion. The Governing Council will discuss the proposal today before ECB President Mario Draghi holds a news conference at 14:30 CET. Market participants expect a €600-billion bond-buy plan, which has been factored into the current market. A significantly bigger stimulus program will result in further weakening of euro. The Wall Street Journal reported the bond-buying program would last a minimum of one year while Bloomberg said the purchases would last until the end of 2016, in the latter scenario the purchases would add over 1 trillion euros to ECB balance sheet. Today at 10:30 CET the December Public Sector Net Borrowing will be published in UK, the tentative outlook is positive for Pound, and a bigger than expected reduction in the budget deficit will likely strengthen the Pound.

Japan’s Nikkei Average fell on Wednesday after the Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged and cut its near-term inflation outlook. Yen traded higher against dollar as the expectations of additional monetary stimulus measures by BOJ didn’t materialize. Nikkei is trading flat today as investors are awaiting for ECB’s decision on stimulus program.

Oil rebounded amid signs that low prices are slowing drilling in the US. BHP Billiton Ltd., the largest overseas investor in US shale, said it will cut the number of active drill rigs in US by almost 40 percent. The rapid decline in oil prices may deter investment in all types of energy needed to meet future demand, the head of the International Energy Agency said.

Oil Prices

Gold snapped a seven-day winning streak Wednesday closing below $1,300, after settling at its highest price in five months on Tuesday. Assets in the SPDR, the largest exchange-traded product backed by bullion, fell 0.2 percent on January 21 to 740.45 metric tons after reaching the highest since October 29 the day before. Copper snapped a two-day advance ahead of China’s manufacturing PMI release tomorrow early morning by HSBC Holdings Plc. and Markit. The outlook is negative, with the reading of 49.5 expected to indicate a contraction.

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