Stocks Climb Ahead of Ben Bernanke Speech

LONDON -- Stocks are set to end the week on an upbeat note in Europe, with benchmark indexes up about 0.5% as traders on both sides of the pond eagerly await Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech to the collection of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyo.

On the continent, however, much of the attention is looking at who isn't at the meeting, with the notable exception of European Central Bank's Mario Draghi bringing many to assume that he is in the middle of something so important -- such as coming up with a plan to help Europe recover from the credit crisis -- that he cannot attend. Hopes are now that the ECB will announce its intentions to fight the troubles in Europe and improve liquidity when it meets next week.

With this, the core EU countries are seeing much of the benefit, with the French CAC 40 (INDEX: ^FCHI) leading gains, up 1.4%.

As always, the following price moves are based on this morning's European trading.

Financials are seeing much of the benefit amid today's renewed risk appetite, with Milan's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (NASDAQOTH: BMDPY.PK) one of the best performers, up almost 7% as it bounces back from a sharp sell-off this week. The bank's shares were hit hard on Wednesday after it posted a worse-than-expected second-quarter loss. The shortfall, brought about by goodwill writedowns and higher loan-loss provisions, caused a raft of broker downgrades and hit the stock 13% in one day.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Ireland (NYS: IRE) is up 3.6%, helped after the Irish Central Bank's Chief Economist Lars Frisell reiterated the country's commitment to austerity. Frisell said the only way "to get out of this" is via a recovery of consumer confidence, saying there is "no way around" consolidating the nation's budget if Ireland wants to recover from the fiscal crisis.

Away from financials, Neste Oil (NASDAQOTH: NTOIY.PK), Finland's only oil refiner, is up almost 6% after Goldman Sachs raised its outlook for the company's stock from "sell" to "buy." This comes just days after Neste's chief financial officer Ilkka Salonen stepped down "by mutual consent." The company's vice president of finance, Matti Piri, will become acting CFO.

ArcelorMittal (NYS: MT) is up almost 3% after it said it was ahead of schedule in its labor discussions with the United Steelworkers. The two parties are discussing the terms of a contract to replace one that is expiring on Sept. 1, and although the company has iterated that these discussions are going well, a spokesman for Arcelor said it has begun to undertake "asset preservation" steps, such as taking blast furnaces offline, in case of a work stoppage.

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Karl Loomes does not own any share mentioned in this article.The Motley Fool owns shares of ArcelorMittal. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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