Thursday preview: All eyes on the central banks

Several FTSE 350 stocks will be reporting full-year results on Thursday but the markets' focus will undoubtedly be on central-bank policy decisions in the UK and Europe.

Several FTSE 350 stocks will be reporting full-year results on Thursday but the markets' focus will undoubtedly be on central-bank policy decisions in the UK and Europe.

The Bank of England's (BoE) Monetary Policy Committee is due to reveal its policy decision at midday.

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While the record-low rate of 0.5% has not been changed since March 2009, speculation has increased about a possible increase in the asset purchase programme after the minutes of last month's meeting showed more support for such a move.

In the end, the majority voted to maintain the current level of quantitative easing (QE), but even BoE Governor Mervyn King added his name to the list calling for more stimulus.

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Nevertheless, while economic data since the last meeting has been somewhat mixed - manufacturing figures missed forecasts, while economic growth estimates for the fourth quarter were revised higher - the £375bn in asset purchases is expected to remain unchanged for now at least, according to consensus forecasts.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce its decision at 12:45 and is widely expected to stand pat on a rate cut.

However, the following press conference with Bank President Mario Draghi could be used to hint at future loosening.

A rate cut tomorrow cannot be completely ruled out though, with Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital speculating about a 25 basis-point cut "given the recent distress in financial markets after Italy's inconclusive elections".

As for corporate news, financials heavyweights Aviva, Schroders and Standard Life are to release their preliminary results for 2012, joined by engineering peers IMI and Spirax-Sarco.


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IndigoVision Group


Penna Consulting


Bloomberg Consumer Confidence (US) (13:45)

Consumer Credit (US) (20:00)

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Continuing Claims (US) (13:30)

Factory Orders (GER) (11:00)

Initial Jobless Claims (US) (13:30)

Spanish Treasury debt auction (09:45)


Shin Kong Financial Holdings Co Ltd GDR (Reg S), X5 Retail Group NV GDR (Reg S)

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Aviva, Avocet Mining, Balfour Beatty, Cineworld Group, Clarkson, Cobham, Communisis, Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. (Singapore), Futura Medical, Fyffes, Grafton Group Units, H&T Group, Hongkong Land Holding Ltd. (Sing.Reg), Hunting, IMI, Inmarsat, Irish Continental Group Units, Mandarin Oriental International (Singapore), Nichols, Novae Group, Schroders, Schroders (Non-Voting), Shin Kong Financial Holdings Co Ltd GDR (Reg S), SIG, Spirax-Sarco Engineering, Standard Life, X5 Retail Group NV GDR (Reg S)


Alpha UK Multi Property Trust, X5 Retail Group NV GDR (Reg S)


Aberforth Smaller Companies Trust, Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. GDR (Reg S), Electra Private Equity, LPA Group, Silverdell

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BoE Interest Rate Decision (12:00)

ECB Interest Rate (EU) (12:45)

Halifax House Price Index (09:30)



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