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Update: Europe: Stocks push on before central bank updates

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Europe's leading stock markets mostly forced their way higher Thursday after a negative start, as investors awaited direction on the outlook for global interest rates.

[LONDON] Europe's leading stock markets mostly forced their way higher Thursday after a negative start, as investors awaited direction on the outlook for global interest rates.

The day ahead sees both the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank releasing minutes from their last monetary policy meetings.

The Bank of England meanwhile announces its latest policy decision with markets widely expecting it to keep its main interest rate at 0.50 per cent, where it has stood for six-and-a-half years to support growth.

While both the Fed and BoE are looking to raise interest rates amid expectations of higher inflation in the US and Britain, a slowdown in China has put pressure on central bankers to delay any hikes to borrowing costs.

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European stock markets have risen in recent days, supported by expectations that the Federal Reserve will hold off from hiking US interest rates until at least next year in the wake of disappointing jobs data in the world's biggest economy.

But on Thursday, markets "opened tentatively... ahead of the Bank of England rate decision and the release of the latest central bank policy meeting minutes", said Andy McLevey, head of dealing at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

"Cautious investors are likely to maintain a watching brief while searching for clues on future ECB monetary policy and whether the Fed seem likely to increase interest rates this year or hold off until 2016." In foreign exchange, the euro grew to US$1.1306 from US$1.1237 late on Wednesday in New York.

In the eurozone, analysts see the ECB going the other way by possibly adding more stimulus to the economy rather than tightening interest rates, because of deflation, or falling prices across the single currency bloc.

In stock market trades Thursday, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index gained 0.37 per cent to stand at 6,359.55 points approaching midday in the capital.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt's DAX 30 climbed 0.19 per cent to 9,989.48 points and the Paris CAC 40 was flat at 4,667.55 compared with Wednesday's close.

On the corporate front Thursday, the world's biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, urged shareholders at rival beer giant SABMiller to go against their board and accept a new takeover offer.

SABMiller rejected on Wednesday an improved $103-billion bid from AB InBev, arguing that its third effort was still too low.

Following the latest move, the share price of SABMiller was down a slight 0.08 per cent to 36.30 pounds, while AB InBev lost 0.74 per cent to 97.92 euros.

The latest offer was priced at 42.15 pounds per SABMiller share.

Elsewhere, Deutsche Bank stock was up 2.24 per cent at 13.48 euros after Germany's biggest lender braced its employees for bonus cuts - after it announced its biggest quarterly loss in about a decade and warned that dividends could be scrapped.

AFP

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