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Morning Bid: Bank of England to test cut assumptions

People walk past the Bank of England building, in London

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Tom Westbrook

The Bank of England is not expected to move interest rates today. But markets price an almost 50-50 chance of a cut in June, so the focus is on whether policymakers deliver any groundwork for loosening policy in six weeks' time.

Academic Swati Dhingra already voted for a cut in March and some figure on Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden joining her this month. Governor Andrew Bailey has sounded comfortable about cutting rates this year, without putting a timetable on it.

A cut is fully priced for August and last week sterling short positions rose to their largest since January 2023, so the currency may be liable to fall if post-meeting guidance doesn't match up to the market's expectations.

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Britain's FTSE 100 made a record high on Wednesday, partly underpinned by hopes of imminent rate cuts.

The European Central Bank has all but promised a cut on June 6, almost certainly putting it out ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve, and the relative outlook from London could inject some direction into the range-bound euro/sterling cross.

Sweden cut rates on Wednesday. Switzerland cut rates in March.

In Asia solid Chinese trade data kept markets steady. China's exports returned to growth and imports leapt in what is perhaps an encouraging sign for domestic demand.

Bank of Japan minutes showed a hawkish shift in April, and some members eyed the prospect of faster-than-expected rate hikes should inflation start to seem durable.

Governor Kazuo Ueda told parliament on Thursday that the central bank was watching the sliding yen closely and would respond if currency movement risked affecting inflation. The yen steadied around 155.5 to the U.S. dollar on Thursday. [FRX/]

On the Middle East, U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time publicly vowed to withhold weapons from Israel if its forces make a major invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Israel, meanwhile, continued tank and aerial strikes on southern Gaza. Markets have not reacted directly to the moves, though Brent crude has steadied above $80 a barrel.

Key developments that could influence markets on Thursday:

- Bank of England policy meeting

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Christopher Cushing)