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Investment market update

Early Trading

UK stocks are expected to open flat this morning with investors focussing on the European Central Bank meeting later today.

World Markets

Asian stocks were mixed despite an earlier across-the-board boost from an overnight rise in the price of oil. Fresh numbers from Beijing showed China’s consumer inflation rose to 2.3% in February, a positive sign for demand in the world’s second-largest economy. The National Bureau of Statistics figures showed that inflation had increased by the largest margin in nearly two years.

US stocks ended higher on the back of rising oil prices and hope of European stimulus. The price of West Texas crude rose 4.9% to $38.29 a barrel and Brent crude climbed 3.6% to $41.07 a barrel. Oil giant Chevron was one of Wednesday’s biggest gainers with its shares rising 4.6%.

UK stocks rose for the first time this week, with a jump in mining shares lifting the FTSE 100 Index. Glencore Plc rose 2.5% as commodities rebounded from their biggest selloff in a month. Prudential Plc, the UK’s largest insurer, rallied after posting full-year earnings that climbed 19%.

Headlines

Deutsche Börse has agreed to sell the International Securities Exchange, its US options business, to rival Nasdaq for $1.1bn, as global exchanges swap assets in an industry shake-up. The move comes as Deutsche Börse is closing in on a merger with the London Stock Exchange Group, although Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange has signalled that it may make a bid to try to break up the deal. Chicago’s CME Group has also been linked with bids for its two European rivals.

The European Central Bank is expected to announce further measures to stimulate the eurozone economy when its governing council meets today. Inflation has continued to fall, putting more pressure on ECB president Mario Draghi to take action. The annual rate of inflation now stands at -0.2%.

Michael Horn, leader of the Volkswagen brand in the US, abruptly left the automaker as its American sales continue to fall following an emissions-test cheating scandal. The decision was mutual and Horn will be replaced for now by executive Hinrich Woebcken, the company said in a statement.

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