Markets Look to ECB in Hope


LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) may open higher this morning as investors direct their attention to the European Central Bank ahead of today's interest rate decision at 7:45 a.m. EDT and the press conference at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Expectations are high that the ECB will announce something concrete today, and European markets have rallied strongly since ECB President Mario Draghi's comment last week that the ECB would do "whatever it takes" to preserve the euro. However, such is the level of expectation that many analysts believe some disappointment is inevitable, given the limited extent of the ECB's remit.

Today's domestic economic data could also be of interest, with weekly initial jobless claims expected to be higher than last week and factory order growth for June expected to be slightly lower than in May.

In company news, General Motors, Cigna, Kraft Foods, and Kellogg are among those due to report earnings before markets open, while bailed-out insurer American International Group and LinkedIn are both expected to report after the bell tonight. Other shares that may be active when markets open include American Eagle Outfitters, which announced better-than-expected results after yesterday's close.

European markets have been quiet this morning with the main indexes all drifting upward slightly. All eyes will be on the ECB announcement, after which markets could react strongly. At 7 a.m. EDT, the DAX was up by 0.6%, the CAC by 0.5%, the FTSE MIB by 0.9%, and the IBEX by 0.6%. The Bank of England's 7 a.m. EDT announcement that it would leave rates unchanged at 0.5% for another month was expected and had little impact on the markets.

In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) was up by 0.5% at 7 a.m. EDT. Among the top gainers were asset manager Schroders, medical firm Smith & Nephew, and insurers Admiral Group and RSA Insurance Group. Keeping the index anchored were Royal Bank of Scotland and BT Group, both of which fell by 1% to 2% on moderate volumes.

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