European Shares Poised For Subdued Start Ahead Of UK Budget

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European stocks are likely to open lower on Wednesday as risk appetite waned ahead of Thursday's ECB meeting, the U.S. jobs report for February due on Friday and the Federal Reserve's policy meeting on March 14-15, with a rate increase appearing certain.

The focus also remains on French politics as French presidential candidate François Fillon faces fresh allegations over an interest-free, undeclared loan of 50,000 euros received from a billionaire businessman in 2013.

Asian stocks pared early losses after China released mixed trade figures. While imports jumped 44.7 percent in yuan terms to post their biggest gain in at least two years, exports missed estimates to rise 4.2 percent in February from a year earlier, leaving a trade deficit of 60.4 billion yuan ($8.8 billion), the first yuan-denominated deficit in three years.

Other economic reports also painted a mostly positive picture of regional economies, with the Japanese economy expanding faster than previously expected in the fourth quarter, while China's foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly increased for the first time in eight months in February.

Closer home, permanent job placements in the U.K. grew at the fastest pace in one year in February while temporary or contract staff placement increased at the weakest pace in four months, the report on jobs compiled by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and IHS Markit showed.

German industrial output data and U.S. private sector employment data are slated for release later in the day. U.K. Chancellor Hammond delivers the Spring Budget at 7.30 am ET. The budget deficit position is expected to be better than the government had estimated in November as the economy grew more than projected.

Overnight, U.S. stocks fell for the second straight session after President Donald Trump tweeted that he is working on a new system to drop prices for medicines.

Sentiment was also dampened after data showed the U.S. trade deficit in January hit the highest level in nearly five years, underscoring the challenges facing Trump. The Dow slipped 0.1 percent while the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 slid about 0.3 percent each.

European stocks fell for a fourth consecutive session on Tuesday, with some disappointing company results, weak factory orders data from Germany and French election worries weighing on markets.

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index shed 0.3 percent. France's CAC 40 index dropped 0.4 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 eased 0.2 percent while the German DAX inched up 0.1 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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