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Wall Street set to follow Europe higher after Draghi

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply higher open, with Dow futures up in excess of 100 points, as markets started to digest the aggressive easing measures announced on Thursday by the European Central Bank (ECB).

European equities rallied, with the pan European STOXX 600 up 2.3 percent as banking stocks led the way, with Italian banks all up in the region of 6 percent, and German and French lenders not far behind.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"In many respects, yesterday's package of measures from the ECB exceeded expectations. Certainly, the 20 billion euro increase in monthly asset purchases to 80 billion euro and extension to non-bank corporate paper was at the upper range of predictions for the quantitative easing program," said head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets, Chris Scicluna.

"And the innovative nature of the new TLTRO II (targeted longer-term refinancing operations) program, whereby banks will be incentivized to lend into the real economy with the carrot of being paid to borrow from the ECB, should be more effective at the margin at supporting bank lending," he said.

Oil prices registered strong gains, aided by a weaker dollar as the euro managed to hang onto gains seen on Thursday, after ECB President Mario Draghi hinted that rates may have reached a floor.

In U.S. economic news, February import prices declined 0.3 percent, while export prices fell 0.4 percent.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were trading at $38.64 per barrel early on Friday, up 80 cents or 2.1 percent from their last close.

Internationally traded Brent climbed 1.5 percent or 59 cents to $40.64.

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