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While you were sleeping: European stocks, bonds rally

06 Mar 2015

European stocks climbed, while the euro dropped to the lowest level in more than 11 years, after the European Central Bank said it will start wider asset purchases next week.

The ECB said it will start its new government bond-buying program of 60 billion euros a month on March 9, including some debt with negative yields. The central bank lifted both its economic growth forecast for 2015, to 1.5 percent from a December estimate of 1 percent, and its inflation forecast for 2016. It kept its key interest rates unchanged at record lows.

"We expect the economic recovery to broaden and strengthen gradually," ECB President Mario Draghi said in a statement. "However, the euro area recovery is likely to continue to be dampened by the necessary balance sheet adjustments in various sectors and the rather slow pace of implementation of structural reforms."

Europe's Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with an 0.8 percent increase from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index advanced 0.6 percent, while France's CAC 40 Index gained 0.9 percent, and Germany's DAX climbed 1 percent to a record-high close.

Euro-zone bonds gained on the ECB plan which includes purchases of debt with negative yields as long as they are not below the central bank's deposit rate, currently at minus 0.2 percent.

"The ECB is willing to buy negative bonds -- that changed the market's calculus," Tyler Tucci, a US government-bond strategist in Royal Bank of Scotland's Stamford, Connecticut office, told Bloomberg.

The euro, however, slid, falling below US$1.10 for the first time since September 2003.

Wall Street was mixed, halting two days of declines, after a weaker-than-expected jobless claims report heightened the focus on Friday's US payrolls data to gauge the timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate increase.

In afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched 0.02 percent higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 0.13 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index edged 0.05 percent lower.

Gains in shares of UnitedHealth and those of Wal-Mart, both up 0.8 percent recently, offset declines in shares Intel and those of McDonald's, last down 1.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

A report showed initial jobless claims increased to 320,000 in the latest week, up from 313,000 in the prior week, and exceeding the 295,000 forecast. That heightened expectations for Friday's jobs report, which is expected to show payrolls rose by 235,000 last month while the jobless rate declined to 5.6 percent.

"We're kind of tapping our foot for tomorrow's non-farm payroll," Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners, in Chicago, told Reuters. "The Federal Reserve made it very clear they're going to raise rates but its going to be data dependent. It's one of the benchmark numbers they're looking at."

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