Thursday preview: ECB announces interest rate decision

European Central Bank (ECB) looks set to cut the refinancing rate at Thursday's highly anticipated council meeting following a batch of disappointing economic data.

European Central Bank (ECB) looks set to cut the refinancing rate at Thursday's highly anticipated council meeting following a batch of disappointing economic data.

Policymakers and investors have been waiting with baited breath for the bank's decision on interest rates.

Easing price pressures and weak economic figures have sparked hopes for a 25 basis-point cut in the ECB's key lending rating at its get-together.

At the last council meeting in April, the ECB said it was ready to act after delivering a downbeat outlook on euro-area recovery.

Since the announcement, most survey data have pointed to an ongoing recession and need for the ECB to take action.

On Tuesday, a report showed a 12.1% rise in unemployment from February's reading of 12.0%. The consumer price index (CPI) also rose by 1.2%, down from a reading of 1.7% in March and the ECB's 2.0% target.

Last week the Markit Eurozone composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the month of April revealed a reading of 46.5, unchanged from the previous month.

A reading under 50 reading indicates contraction in activity. Th PMI was under the benchmark for the 19th time in the past 20 months with the exception of a marginal increase in January 2012.

Analysts expect the gauge of data to provide an excuse for the ECB to implement more stimulus and cut rates.

Thursday will also be a busy day on the company front with results out from British Sky Broadcasting Group, Legal & General Group, Rolls-Royce Holdings, BG Group and Royal Dutch Shell.

Thursday May 2nd

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

Balance of Trade (US) (13:30)

ECB Interest Rate (EU) (12:45)

PMI Manufacturing (EU) (09:00)

Q3

British Sky Broadcasting Group

GMS

Sula Iron & Gold

FINALS

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels

IMSS

Howden Joinery Group, Legal & General Group, Rolls-Royce Holdings, RPS Group, RSA Insurance Group

AGMS

ARM Holdings, Avocet Mining, Charles Taylor, Core VCT IV, Core VCT V, Fisher (James) & Sons, GKN, Golden Prospect Precious Metals Ltd., Inmarsat, Johnson Service Group, Juridica Investments Ltd., LSL Property Services, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, Phoenix Group Holdings (DI), Reckitt Benckiser Group, Rolls-Royce Holdings, StatPro Group, Talvivaara Mining Company (CDI), Thalassa Holdings Ltd. (DI), Trap Oil Group

UK ECONOMIC ANNOUNCEMENTS

PMI Construction (09:30)

Productivity (US) (13:30)

FINAL DIVIDEND PAYMENT DATE

BlackRock World Mining Trust

Q1

Avocet Mining, BG Group, Inmarsat, Lancashire Holdings, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, Royal Dutch Shell 'A', Royal Dutch Shell 'B', RSA Insurance Group, Shire Plc, Smith & Nephew

RD

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