European Stocks Rebound as ECB Stays Easy

European benchmarks swung back into the black Thursday afternoon afternoon, reversing the morning's steep losses, after the European Central Bank gave its strongest signal in recent months that it intends to remain easy for at least the foreseeable future.

However, London's stock markets finished in the red after underperforming their continental counterparts, with ex-dividend stocks weighing heavily on the large cap FTSE 100 index.

The FTSE 100 was down 0.40% by the close, at 7,303, although the mid-market FTSE 250 benchmark eked out a 0.30% gain for the session.

Meanwhile, in Frankfurt the DAX added 0.11% to close at 12,230 while the CAC 40 added 0.58% in Paris to settle at 5,120.

Benchmarks in southern Europe were also firmly on the right side of the day's break even threshold, with Madrid's IBEX having added close to 1% for the session, while the FTSE MIB in Milan rose by just more than 0.20%.

Key to the rebound were comments from ECB chief Mario Draghi, who told a conference early on in the morning that an ongoing recovery of the eurozone economies is contingent on the continued support of an easy ECB.

Minutes from the latest ECB meeting, released at noon, also confirmed that the central bank is still a long way off from adopting the hawkish stance markets had begun to expect from it.

News around the printing presses helped to put other events, such as the day's meeting between President Donald Trump and China's president, Xi Jingping, into the shade.

In individual stocks, the FTSE 100 was dominated by losses at education publisher Pearson (PSO) , Lloyds Banking Group (LYG) , Aviva (AVVIY) and Paddy Power Betfair (PDYPF) , all ex-dividend Thursday and down between 1.9% and 7% at the close.

Spain's biggest mover on the upside was fashion retailer Inditex (IDEXY) , which owns Zara the world's largest apparel brand, after the shares gained nearly 2.5%.

Luxury goods stocks were strong throughout much of the session, seemingly impervious to monetary policy related whims, and in this vain LVMH (LVMUY) was among the top risers in France.

Also in Paris, commercial property firm Unibail Rodamco (UNBLF) was a top riser on the CAC, having been a beneficiary of Draghi's suggestion that the ECB will remain easy for the foreseeable future. Real estate stocks, especially those with investments in some of the European capitals where real estate valuations are seen as toppy, are almost as sensitive to changes in interest rate expectations as bank stocks themselves.

Top risers in Frankfurt were RWE (RWEOY) , Allianz (AZSEY) and E.ON (EONGY)  Top fallers in Frankfurt were Deutsche Lufthansa (DLAKY) , Volkswagen (VLKAY) , Commerzbank (CRZBY) and BMW (BMWYY) , although none with losses of more than 1%. 

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