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Stocks - Europe Pushes Higher as ECB Steps In

By Peter Nurse - European stock markets pushed higher Thursday, as the European Central Bank joined policymakers around the world in attempting to shore up the financial markets, unveiling its biggest anti-crisis program yet.

At 03:50 ET (0850 GMT), the U.K.'s FTSE index was trading 0.5% higher, France's CAC 40 was up 3.4%, while the DAX was up 1.7%. The pan-eurozone index, the Euro Stoxx 50, gained 2.8%. 

The European Central Bank launched a 750 billion euro ($820 billion) emergency bond purchase scheme after an unscheduled meeting Wednesday. It will buy government and company debt across the eurozone, including that of troubled Greece and Italy. Sovereign bond spreads, which had widened sharply in recent days, came in sharply in response.

This announcement came after the bank's 25-member governing council held emergency talks by phone late into Wednesday evening.

The move follows an unprecedented and large step up in global co-ordination by central banks, governments and regulators since the start of this week to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus.

"Extraordinary times require extraordinary action," ECB President Christine Lagarde said, amid concerns that the strains from the burgeoning crisis, seen with the widening of yield spreads over the German benchmark, could eventually tear apart the euro zone as a single currency bloc.

Oil&gas stocks have seen some gains Thursday after prolonged losses, while banks have benefited from the ECB’s bond purchase scheme. But worries still exist in the airlines sector after Deutsche Lufthansa (DE:LHAG) added its voice to the chorus saying the industry may not survive without state aid if the coronavirus pandemic lasts for a long time.

"The spread of the coronavirus has placed the entire global economy and our company as well in an unprecedented state of emergency," CEO Carsten Spohr said in a statement. "At present, no one can foresee the consequences." Lufthansa has grounded the vast bulk of its fleet as demand grinds to a halt.

Economic indicators are thin on the ground in Europe Thursday, while oil markets have seen some gains after three days of relentless selling.

AT 04:50 AM ET (0850 GMT), U.S. crude futures traded 15% higher at $24.05 a barrel and the international benchmark Brent contract rose 9% to $27.17. 

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.6% to $1,486.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded at 1.0857, down 0.5% on the day.



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