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08 Apr 2021 | 11:05

Europe midday: Shares hold on to gains as Fed maintains policy stance

(Sharecast News) - European stock markets maintained record levels at midday on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve said it was content to keep monetary policy loose for "some time" until economic conditions improve sufficiently from the Covid pandemic. The benchmark pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.32% in early trade, shifting off morning highs. All major continental bourses were higher, with France's CAC up 0.37% after the publication of the US central bank's latest meeting minutes.

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard said policymakers expect "considerably better outcomes on growth, and employment and inflation" in coming months.

"But that is an outlook," she told CNBC. "We are going to have to actually see that in the data ... we have some distance to go" Brainard said, referring to job losses during the crisis.

Investors shrugged off news that several European countries had announced restrictions on the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in younger people, after a link was found to very rare blood clots.

Eyes were also on the latest US weekly jobless claims numbers, which after rising unexpectedly back to 719k last week were expected to fall back to 680k, after hitting a revised 658k a couple of weeks ago. Continuing claims are also expected to decline further to 3.65m, said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

The Fed meeting notes "has further reassured investors that (Fed Chairman) Jay Powell and the gang won't be turning off the stimulus taps any time soon", said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

In equity news, shares in Johnson Matthey were up 3% as the company said annual performance would be around the top end of market expectations and announced a strategic review of its health business.

Anglo American stock was up as the mining giant announced the demerger of its thermal coal operations in South Africa.

Dutch-based technology investment company Prosus was also higher after news it was selling a 2% stake in software group Tencent, worth about $15bn, in the biggest block trade on record.

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