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European Stocks Rise Ahead of ECB Meeting, U.S. Jobs Report

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets were in a buoyant mood on Thursday ahead of the European Central Bank policy meeting and June jobs data out of the United States. Asian markets were mixed.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.39% at 6,843.21 while in Frankfurt the DAX added 0.50% to 9,960.97. In Paris the CAC 40 rose 0.45% to 4,464.84.

The ECB is expected to hold rates steady, a month after cutting the key rate to a record-low 0.15% lowering the deposit rate to minus 0.1%, the first time a central bank ventured into negative rate territory.

All 54 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News are betting that the ECB will leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.15%. After the meeting, markets will be listening closely to comments from ECB President Mario Draghi for any insights into where he thinks interested rates are headed in the longer term.

Carsten Breszki, senior economist at ING Groep NV in Brussels, predicted the "calm after the storm" to last for some time.

"In the absence of any substantial news, Mario Draghi has the chance to either keep the press conference very short or use the time for another call on governments to do their homework, in both structural and fiscal terms," the economist said in a preview report.

In Paris, shares in Ingenico Group surged 6.9% to 69.69 euros, a day after the French maker of payment terminals entered into exclusive talks to acquire GlobalCollect, a Dutch online payments services company, for an enterprise value of 820 million euros ($1.12 billion). 

That deal, due to be completed early in the fourth quarter, will expand the buyer's global reach, particularly in North America. It plans to finance the deal with 220 million euros in existing cash on its balance sheet, and bank debt of 600 million euros.

Ingenico is buying GlobalCollect from New York buyout shop Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe LLP, which bought GlobalCollect in 2010 and had also been considering an IPO for the business.

In Zurich, shares of Zurich Insurance Group were up 0.89% after it announced plans to sell its Russian retail unit to Olma Group, a Moscow-based brokerage and investment services company, for 1 billion rubles ($30 million). 

Although Zurich Insurance will take a $300 million loss on the sale, the move will allow it to focus on Russian corporate business, which has been underwriting large Russian and multinational commercial customers, energy business and financial lines since 1996, and sell a business that has not developed to its expectations.

Bucking the positive trend, shares in British building company Balfour Beatty slumped 10.94% in London after it announced a 35 million pound six-month profit shortfall at its engineering services division. It's due to report first-half results for the whole group on Aug. 13. 

Later Thursday, all eyes will be on fresh data out of the world's largest economy.

The report may show that U.S nonfarm payrolls rose by 215,000, predicted economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Most bets are on good news after Wednesday's report from the ADP Research Institute showing that private employers in the U.S. hired 281,000 workers last month. 

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.08% to 23,531.44, while the Nikkei fell 0.14% to 15,348.

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