LONDON -- U.S. stock futures have risen this morning as expectation builds toward the outcome of this month's European Central Bank rate-setting meeting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) is expected to open up by nearly 1%, following similar early gains in European markets this morning.
Domestic economic data due today could also impact trading. The latest unit labor costs and productivity data are both expected to show falls, while the U.S. Energy Information Administration weekly petroleum report is expected to show a 500,000 barrel reduction in crude-oil stocks, which may help to lift oil prices. The Federal Reserve will also release its latest Beige Book, providing further insight into the state of the economy.
In Europe, the outcome of the ECB rate-setting decision was due at 7:45 a.m. EDT, and the ECB's president, Mario Draghi, is due to give a press conference at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Markets are hoping for any sign that the ECB is planning to provide additional support for the eurozone, although an interest-rate cut is considered unlikely by the majority of analysts. Many believe the onus is now firmly on European leaders to agree on a new plan -- something that appears increasingly necessary, but unlikely until the end of June at the earliest.
In European markets, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) was up by 1.4% by 7 a.m. EDT. The DAX was up 1.7%, and the IBEX 35 and CAC 40 were up by more than 2%, despite new data showing that Spain's industrial output fell by 8.3% in April, while Germany's fell by 2.2%. Investors' flight to safety continued in the bond markets, with German five-year bonds selling for a record-low yield of 0.41% in an auction this morning, down from 0.56% at the last auction of this kind.
Revised eurozone GDP estimates for the first quarter show that GDP growth was flat against the previous quarter. In the U.K., the construction sector managed another month of growth, with the latest U.K. Construction Purchasing Managers' Index reading 54.4, down from 55.5 in April. Elsewhere, Australian GDP rose by 1.3% in the first quarter, more than double analysts' expectations. This helped to support the share prices of the FTSE 100's major mining shares in morning trading. Other risers included spirits group Diageo (NYSE: DEO ) , which rose by 2.4% after announcing a $1.5 billion investment in production facilities. Hedge fund stock Man Group topped the leaders' table with a gain of 7.4%, following an upgrade from Citigroup on renewed takeover speculation.
In European company news, Moody's has downgraded the credit ratings of seven German banks and three Austrian banks, with Germany's Commerzbank the highest-profile casualty; its rating has been cut to A3.
Finally, billionaire investor Warren Buffett has also weighed into the debate about the impact of the eurozone crisis, saying that he believes the odds of America falling back into recession are "very low." Buffett has a keen interest in the eurozone, considering his recent $1 billion investment in a British blue-chip giant with global expansion potential. The purchase doubled his stake in this famous name to 5% -- and you can find all the details of Buffett's big U.K. deal in this special free report, which includes the name of the company and the price he paid.
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