Europe markets open little changed after BoE, ECB policy updates

LONDON — Europe markets opened flat on Friday as investors digested key updates from both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was little changed after the opening bell, with major bourses and sectors in mixed territory.

Oil and gas stocks, up 1.6%, saw the biggest gains, after Britain’s energy regulator lifted its energy price cap by 54% on Thursday, meaning millions of households will see their annual fuel bills rise by around £700 ($950) from April.

Autos stocks led losses, shedding almost 1% during early trade.

Thursday saw the European Central Bank keep interest rates unchanged in spite of record inflation levels across the euro zone. The Bank of England, however, hiked rates in its first back-to-back interest rates rise since 2004.

The ECB resisted pressure to raise rates at a time of unprecedented inflation, with the most recent reading hitting a record 5.1% last month. Christine Lagarde, the central bank’s president, said on Thursday that although inflation was likely to remain elevated for longer than previously thought, the ECB expected it to ease throughout 2022.

Meanwhile, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said on Thursday it was likely the BoE would need to raise rates again, after hiking its main interest rate to 0.5% in a bid to contain soaring inflation, which hit a 30-year high in the U.K. in January.

Elsewhere, stocks in Asia-Pacific markets were trading higher on Friday, after Wall Street suffered heavy losses on Thursday that saw the Nasdaq Composite shed 4%.

Euro zone retail sales for December will be published on Friday, as well as industrial output figures for France and Germany.

Across the Atlantic, U.S. non-farm payroll figures are also due to be published on Friday.

Stocks on the move

Swedish manufacturer Assa Abloy surged to the top of the Stoxx 600 on Friday, gaining 5% after publishing a strong 2021 full year earnings report.

Lenders Caixabank and BNP Paribas also moved toward the top of the index, both gaining more than 3%.

At the other end of the Stoxx 600, Swedish medtech company AddLife was down by 20%, despite posting a 59% growth in earnings for 2021. The company announced on Thursday that its CEO, Kristina Willgard, would step down this year.