European stocks are expected to make modest gains at the open following strong gains on Wall Street and in Asia. Investors remain focused on Ben Bernanke’s speech at the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole meeting on Friday in which some hope he will discuss plans for another round of quantitative easing .
Apple will be in focus following CEO and founder Steve Jobs decision to resign. Jobs said he can no longer fulfill his duties in a sign that his health has deteriorated further following a battle with cancer. Jobs will be replaced by long-time number two Tim Cook. Shares in Apple fell (Ticker reflects Wednesday's close) in after hours trade on the news and will be closely watched at the open on Wall Street.
Get pre-market quotes on Apple here.
Gold prices will be closely watched following big losses for the precious metal on Wednesday. Having topped $1,900 earlier this week, gold now trades well below $1,800 after investors sold safe-haven assets and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange raised margin requirements on Comex gold futures.
After the European close, France cut its growth forecasts for 2011 and 2012 and unveiled another round of austerity measures. Tax loop holes will be closed down and government spending will be frozen, while an exceptional levy will be imposed on those earning over 500,000 euros a year.
A leading member of the Bundesbank has fired a broadside at the ECB’s bond purchasing program. Speaking in New York, Andreas Dombret said that while US money market funds are now more selective about whom they will lend to, the euro zone banking system is not facing a 2008-like funding crisis. Dombret went on to say that monetary and fiscal policy within the euro zone need to be kept separate.
“Wherever the boundary between the two has become blurred, it must be redrawn as quickly as possible” said Dombret.