Europe midday: Jitters over Powell speech push shares into red

By Frank Prenesti

European markets slipped into the red at lunchtime on Friday as investors awaited US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech at the Jackson Hole economic symposium.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 was down by 0.32%, with all major regional bourses lower.

Markets will be monitoring Powell’s speech, due at 1500 BST, for any signs of the pace and trajectory of interest rate rises as the Fed tries to stymie rampant inflation.

In Germany, consumer sentiment is expected to fall to a record low again in September amid worries about rising energy bills, according to a survey released on Friday.

GfK’s headline advance consumer confidence index declined to -36.5 from a downwardly-revised -30.9 in August, coming in below consensus expectations of -31.8.

The propensity to buy index fell 1.2 points to -15.7 in August, while the income expectations index ticked up to -45.3 from -45.7 and the business cycle expectations index rose to -17.6 from -18.2.

A different picture emerged from its neighbour France, where the INSEE official statistics agency’s consumer confidence index rose to 82 from 80 in July, above an average forecast of 79. It was the first rise in consumer morale in seven months.

Measures ranging from pension and civil servant pay rises to subsidised rebate on car fuel prices come after the government already introduced electricity and gas price caps last year ahead of presidential elections this April.

Meanwhile in the UK, energy prices were allowed to rise 80% to more than £3,500 by industry regulator Ofgem, boosting profits for suppliers, but forcing misery on millions of households.

In equity news, shares in software maker Micro Focus almost doubled after the company said it had agreed a £5.1bn takeover, including debt, by Canadian rival OpenText.

The offering is £5.32 per share, a 98% premium on Micro Focus’s current share price, which has fallen 87% over the past three years.

Reporting by Frank Prenesti at Sharecast.com

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