LONDON (AP) — Markets were firm Thursday ahead of policy statements from Europe's top two central banks that are expected to further ease monetary policy to help boost growth.
While the European Central Bank is expected to cut its main interest rate to below 1 percent for the first time, the Bank of England is widely-tipped to back another boost to Britain's money supply.
Europe's economy, including that of non-euro member Britain, has faltered over the past few months as a debt crisis in some countries has weighed on economic confidence.
With many countries unable to use fiscal measures — cutting taxes or increasing spending — to boost growth, it has fallen to central banks to loosen their monetary policies. A recent drop in inflation has boosted the case for central banks to act to lower market interest rates.
"It really is quite tragic that equity markets should rally and take comfort from continued central bank largesse," said David Morrison, senior market strategist at GFT Markets. "This is not indicative of economic health."
Investors will be keen to see if the ECB does anything more than the anticipated rate cut. Some in the markets think that the central bank may announce further measures to boost liquidity. Two super-cheap long-term liquidity operations at the turn of 2011-12 helped shore up markets for a few months.
Markets, particularly in Europe, have since Friday enjoyed one of their best runs since early this year as investors cheered Friday's agreement by the leaders of the 17 euro countries to allow Europe's bailout fund to capitalize banks directly and to buy bonds of imperiled countries.
In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 0.5 percent at 6,600 while the CAC-40 in France was unchanged at 3,268. Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.3 percent higher at 5,699. The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.2506
Wall Street was poised for a flat return from July 4 celebrations, though how U.S. markets open could be affected by the European central bank decisions as well as the monthly private payrolls report from ADP.
Analysts look to the ADP figures when forecasting the government's official payrolls report, which often sets the market tone for a week or two after their release. The government's payrolls figures for June are due Friday and analysts say another weak number could prompt the U.S. Federal Reserve to enact another monetary stimulus, too.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent to 9,079.80 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.4 percent to 19,792.02. South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.1 percent to 1,875.49. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.1 percent to 4,169.20. China's Shanghai Composite tumbled 1.2 percent to 2,201.35.
Oil prices were fairly steady too, with benchmark oil for August delivery up 16 cents at $87.82 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.