European stock markets edged lower on Friday morning as investors took some profits after yesterday’s rally – but the euro continued to streak higher ahead of data on the state of the European economy.
The FTSE 100, which yesterday had one of its brightest days of a bullish start to 2013, opened down 0.1% to 6257 with miners Evraz (EVRE.L), Rio Tinto (RIO.L) and BHP Billiton (BLT.L) leading the falls, the trio down around 1% to 302p, 2,116p and 3,540p respectively.
There was little corporate news to provide European markets with a strong direction, with French and German indices little moved. Asian markets were mixed, but most US stocks closed up on Thursday, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index briefly scaling 1,500, as a surprise drop in jobless claims and strong earnings offset Apple's worst day in more than four years
European investors were looking ahead to data on UK GDP – expected to show a contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012 – as well as business sentiment in Germany.
The euro rose by 0.3% to $1.3411, adding to gains yesterday, ahead of data due from the European Central Bank on how much banks would pay back from the three year ‘LTRO’ lending operations which were credited with seeing off a ‘Lehman moment’ squeeze on liquidity.
Jennifer McKeown of Capital Economics said that repayments ‘should confirm that interbank markets are now functioning better and that some banks in the region feel more confident and hence do not need the large cash buffers that they had previously accepted’.