Stocks back near record highs on dovish ECB bets


LONDON Reuters Stocks returned to near record highs in Europe on Thursday as investors bet on the European Central Bank keeping its stimulus taps full open as long as COVID remains a threat to growth.

A revived appetite for riskier assets came as worries that the Delta variant of COVID19 would seriously crimp economic recovery, eased.

The STOXX index of 600 leading European shares was up 0.6 percent at 456.53 points, back within striking distance of its lifetime high of 461.38 points reached last week.

Among the standouts, shares in consumer goods giant Unilever sank 4.4 after it warned that surging commodity costs would squeeze its fullyear operating margin, overshadowing solid secondquarter sales growth.

Investor focus was firmly on the ECB in Frankfurt.

The ECB is going to do precisely what the market expects, said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets.

In light of recent events in western Europe, the flooding, the last thing that Europe needs at the moment is a tightening of monetary policy, Hewson said in reference to last weeks devastating floods in Germany and Belgium that killed over 180 people.

Italian borrowing costs sank to their lowest in over three months ahead of the ECB meeting, whose outcome is due at 1145 GMT, followed by a news conference with its president Christine Lagarde at 1230 GMT.

Investors will scrutinise her guidance on inflation as the debate over when huge pandemicera stimulus should be reined back continues among…

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