European stock futures sharply lower; nervousness ahead of U.S. payrolls


By Peter Nurse – European stock markets are expected to open sharply lower Friday, following weakness on Wall Street ahead of the widely-watched U.S. jobs report which could influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

At 02:00 ET (07:00 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 1.4% lower, CAC 40 futures in France dropped 0.5%, while the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. fell 1.5%.

Sentiment has been hit hard by Jerome Powell’s semi-annual testimony to Congress this week, with the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve saying the central bank was prepared to quicken the pace of rate hikes to battle persistent inflation. 

The market is now increasingly betting that March’s rate decision by the Fed will be a half-percentage point hike, an acceleration from the 25 basis point increase in early February.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped over 500 points, or 1.7%, on Thursday, with investors wary ahead of the latest U.S. payrolls release, with Powell mentioning this data point as one of the key indicators framing the Fed’s thinking. 

Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased by 205,000 jobs last month, a slowdown from the blockbuster 517,000 added in January, but the market is nervous given the impact of last month’s surprise.

Back in Europe, German inflation remained highly elevated, as consumer prices rose 0.8% on the month in February, and annual rise of 8.7%, suggesting the European Central Bank still has its work cut out to rein in inflation in the Eurozone.

U.K. gross domestic product rose 0.3% in January, an improvement from the hefty drop of 0.5% in December, but industrial production fell 0.3% in the same month, pointing to the economic difficulties the country is currently suffering. 

The European banking sector is also likely to be in the spotlight Friday after U.S. banking stocks were hit hard overnight, with the S&P 500 bank index suffering its biggest one-day drop in nearly three years.  

This followed SVB Financial’s (NASDAQ:SIVB) announcement of a $2.25 billion equity raise after revealing a $1.8B net loss and crypto bank Silvergate’s (NYSE:SI) decision to wind down operations.

Oil prices fell Friday, and are heading for their worst weekly loss in five weeks on concerns steep interest rate hikes in the U.S. will stymie economic activity and thus crude demand in the largest consumer in the world.

Also weighing on sentiment this week has been disappointing economic data out of China, the largest oil importer in the world, suggesting its economic recovery will take some time.

By 02:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1.1% lower at $74.91 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.8% to $80.95. Both benchmarks were on course to lose about 5% this week.

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,835.85/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.0591.


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