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Russia gas flow lifts euro ahead of ECB rate meeting

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Russia gas flow lifts euro ahead of ECB rate meeting © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People pass by an electronic screen showing Japan’s Nikkei share price index inside a conference hall in Tokyo, Japan June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Stock markets eased on Thursday as a resumption of Russian gas supplies to Europe lifted the euro ahead of the European Central Bank’s anticipated first interest rate hike in over a decade to quell inflation.

The flow of Russian gas resumed to Germany after a 10-day outage to ease Europe’s supply concerns for now, helping to ease worries about fallout on the economy. (Full Story) (Full Story)

The euro edged up, distancing itself further from last week’s parity against the greenback, the recovery bolstered by expectations the ECB might deliver a big 50 basis-point rate hike.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that supplies could be reduced further or even stop, prompting the EU to tells its members to cut usage.

“European markets are going to be pulled and pushed by Putin’s mood,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets.

Markets are looking to see how much the ECB will raise interest rates later at 1215 GMT on Thursday, with a 25-bps hike already price in, Hewson said. (Full Story)

Traders also await details of an ECB tool to contain stress in bond markets, made all the more urgent by a crumbling government in Italy, one of the euro zone’s most indebted countries. FRX/

Graphic: Italian spreads and debt/GDP, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/myvmnljwdpr/Four.PNG

Rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve next week and from the Bank of England in August are also well anticipated by now, Hewson said.

The STOXX index .STOXX of 600 European companies was off 0.4%. The MSCI All-Country stock index .MIWD00000PUS eased 0.14%.

Italian bonds IT10YT=RR sold off sharply following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s government in the euro area’s third biggest economy. (Full Story)

Nadege Dufosse, head of cross-asset strategy at Candriam, said political turmoil in Italy is putting more pressure on the ECB to have its so-called anti-fragmentation tool in place to cap bond yields and reassure markets.

“I think they will have to deliver on that point, I think it’s the main risk today. It must convince investors that it will be efficient,” Dufosse said.

After the latest series of rate hikes, investors will be trying to gauge whether the economy is headed for a soft or hard landing as higher borrowing costs are absorbed, she said.

“It’s the expectations for the fourth quarter or next year that can really determine the trend in the market. For now we do not have the answer and we just have to be very pragmatic,” Dufosse said.

Bucking the trend, the Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged on Thursday, as expected, and raised its inflation forecasts a little bit. The yen held steady at 138.37 per dollar. (Full Story)

NQc1 fell 0.25% and EScv1 fell 0.2%. Earnings from Blackstone (NYSE:), Dow Chemical, Philip Morris International (NYSE:), Twitter (NYSE:) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:) were due on Thursday.

CHINA CLOUDS

Wall Street indexes rallied overnight but even better-than-expected results from Tesla (NASDAQ:) TSLA.O after hours couldn’t carry the positive mood into the Asia session. (Full Story).N

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.1% and .N225 gained 0.4%.

A cloud over Chinese growth due to its strict COVID-19 controls and fresh concern over the ailing property market is also casting gloom over the prospects for global demand.

Growth-sensitive commodities such as SCFc1 and iron ore SZZFc1 have been sliding and this week Chinese banks and property stocks have been hurt by borrowers boycotting mortgage payments on unfinished homes. (Full Story)

“Past due mortgages doubled over the week, and … potential home buyers are waiting for a general drop in home prices for the housing market, including completed projects,” ING analysts said in a note to clients on Thursday.

“This is negative even for cash-rich developers.”

CNY=CFXS was slightly firmer at 6.7664 to the dollar. Against other currencies the greenback steadied after dipping earlier in the week. The Australian dollar AUD=D3 bought $0.68650.

The benchmark US10YT=RR held at 3.0415%, below the 2-year yield of 3.2359%, a market signal that often presages a recession. US/

Oil prices fell for a second straight session, as demand concerns outweighed tight global supply after U.S. government data showed tepid gasoline consumption during the peak summer driving season.

LCOc1 was down 2.25% at $104.50 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate dropped 2.6% to $97.32 a barrel.

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