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European markets close higher as investors look ahead to ECB meeting; ASML jumps 8%

European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde speaks as she presents the bank’s Annual Report to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France, on February 26, 2024.

Frederick Florin | Afp | Getty Images

European stocks closed higher Wednesday, with investors in the region looking ahead to the next meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB).

European markets

The pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally ended the session up 0.84%, with major bourses and most sectors in positive territory. Tech stocks led gains, up 3.7%, while mining stocks fell 0.5%.

Shares of Dutch chip firm ASML jumped to the top of the index, climbing 8.1% and marking its highest close since March 7, when it set a record high.

The move followed the release of a Jefferies analyst note which said that on a small group call, ASML’s CFO Roger Dassen “sounded optimistc” that discussions with key client TSMC about significant orders to be spread across several quarters were “nearing conclusion.”

Zara owner Inditex meanwhile rose 3.7% after reporting 7% sales growth in the first quarter. Sales hit 8.2 billion euros ($8.9 billion) in the three months to April, the company said Wednesday, broadly in line with expectations, according to an LSEG poll.

Euro zone business activity grew for the third consecutive month in May, final estimates of the region’s composite purchasing managers’ index showed on Wednesday. Growth in the services and manufacturing sectors was steady in Germany, Spain and Italy, but dipped slightly in France over the period.

Corresponding data for the U.K. showed business activity also expanded in May, but at a slower pace than in April.

The ECB is widely expected to cut interest rates for the first time since 2019 when policymakers meet on Thursday, but investors will watch closely to see whether a slightly higher-than-expected euro zone inflation print released last Friday will affect the central bank’s decision-making.

In other news, Asia-Pacific markets were mixed overnight as investors assessed India’s election results after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party fell short of an outright majority in the lower house of parliament.

Nevertheless, Modi is set for a third term in power after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance secured 294 seats, more than the 272 needed for the coalition to form the government.

U.S. stocks rose in early deals after weak labor market data fueled hopes the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates later this year.

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