Europe Markets

Europe Shares Close Higher After ECB Rate Decision


European shares finished in positive territory Thursday as both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England kept interest rates unchanged.

The FTSEurofirst 300 Index ended higher on Thursday.

The ECB cutting its economic forecasts for the euro zone, offering a grim outlook for the euro zone economy in 2013.

The new revised figures pointed towards a likely contraction next year before a return to growth in 2014. The central bank announced it will keep interest rates at a record low of 0.75 percent for the fifth month but the main focus was on any clues for the bank's policy path for 2013.

During the press conference ECB President Mario Draghi said there was a "wide discussion" on whether to keep interest rates unchanged and added that the ECB was "operationally ready" for negative deposit rates. The euro fell against the dollar to around 1.302.

In the U.K., after Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn statement on Wednesday, the Bank of England is announced at midday London time that it will not make any changes to its interest rate of 0.5 percent or its bond buying program.

In Greece, just days after the country initiated its debt buyback scheme, ratings agency Standard and Poor's cut the country's credit rating to "selective default" from an already low CCC. The agency cited the latest bond offering as a reason for the downgrade. Despite this the Athens Stock Exchange was trading higher by around 2 percent.

In Italy, political tensions interfered with a vote on economic measures on Thursday. The government won the vote 127 to 17 but a walkout was staged by former PM Silvio Berlusconi's PDL Party. The Italian FTSE MIB Index fell 1.19 percent after the news and was the major loser among European indexes.

In stocks news, the main focus was on the resurgence of mobile phone firm Nokia with shares rising 9.66 percent after a bad trading day for rival Apple on Wednesday. Apple's German listed shares opened down following the trend in the U.S. markets as the tech giant had its biggest single-day drop in share price.

Other stocks to watch on Thursday included European aerospace giant EADS. The firm announced a new shareholder agreement to restructure the holdings of Germany, France and Spain in the group, after the failure of a bid for UK defense company BAE Systems. The restructuring will lead to a simplified management structure and a new chairman heading a mainly independent board.

U.K.-based but Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered said on Thursday it expects to pay $330 million to settle a case with U.S. regulators over trade with Iran, on top of an already-announced $340 million fine.

French company GDF Suez announced cost cutting measures on Thursday; shares opened nearly 15 percent down.

Reports emerged on Thursday that Rolls-Royce was in talks with the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office. The aerospace and defense group said it the discussions was over potential corruption involving its overseas intermediaries.

Shares in Beiersdorf climbed 2.15 percent, as the German cosmetics maker increased its sales forecast to over 4 percent. Also in Germany, Deutsche Bank shares fell 1.93 percent as the Financial Times reported that three former employees had filed complaints with the U.S. authorities claiming the bank failed to recognize up to $12 billion of losses during the financial crisis.