European shares edge higher, focus on ECB meeting

[LONDON] The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index edged up to trade near a 2-1/2-month high on Thursday, with an improving US economic outlook and expectations of further stimulus from the European Central Bank helping the market.

Ryanair jumped 8.7 per cent, the top gainer in the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after raising its full-year profit guidance to between 810 million and 830 million euros from 750 million to 770 million after its passenger numbers jumped 22 per cent in November.

Investors' focus was on ECB President Mario Draghi, who will present the bank's updated forecasts for growth in output as well as inflation at a policy meeting later in the day.

The ECB could extend a scheme to buy rebundled debt to purchasing corporate bonds, but it is unlikely to announce any radical immediate move such as printing money to buy government bonds.

At 0808 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.1 per cent at 1,401.67 points after climbing to its highest level in more than two months in the previous session. The index has gained 15 per cent since a one-year low in mid-October.

The Dow and S&P 500 share indexes closed at record highs on Wednesday after data showed US services sector rose more than expected in November.


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