European stock markets were modestly lower Monday at the start of a busy week that includes the latest policy decision from the European Central Bank and the British general election, which is taking place in the wake of a series of attacks.
KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 dipped 0.3 percent to 7,525 while France’s CAC 40 dropped 0.6 percent to 5,309. The German stock exchange was closed for a holiday. U.S. stocks were poised for a tepid opening, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent.
LONDON ATTACK: Much attention in Britain was focused on the fallout from Saturday’s attack in London, which killed seven people. The three attackers were shot dead by police. The attack followed on from another in Manchester two weeks ago and comes ahead of Thursday’s general election. Though Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party is still ahead in the polls, the main opposition Labour Party has narrowed the gap during the campaign.
ANALYST TAKE: “The markets will be watching opinion polls to judge what, if any, impact this latest round of terror is having,” said Jane Foley, a senior strategist at Rabobank International.
ECB WEEK: Perhaps of wider consequence to the markets in Europe will be the outcome of Thursday’s policy meeting of the ECB. Following a recent decline in inflation, the bank is not expected to signal that it’s ready just yet to ease up on its monetary stimulus, even though growth across the region has picked up momentum.
GULF RIFT: Qatar’s main stock index tumbled about 5 percent after Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar over its support for Islamist groups and its relations with Iran. The news sent the price of crude oil briefly higher, but that soon dissipated — benchmark crude was down 30 cents at $47.36 a barrel while Brent, the international benchmark, fell 36 cents to $49.59 a barrel.
THE QUOTE: Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics in London, said the impact on oil markets will “likely be limited” because Qatar is one of the smallest producers within the OPEC oil cartel. Its daily production of some 0.6 million barrels is equivalent to Ecuador’s and far below Saudi Arabia’s 10 million barrels a day. However, the impact on energy markets could become greater if the Dolphin gas pipeline from Qatar to the United Arab Emirates is disrupted. Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. So far, there’s no sign of the pipeline being disrupted, Tuvey said.
ASIA’S DAY: Asian stock markets finished mixed after trading within a narrow range. Japan’s Nikkei 225 ended flat at 20,170.82 while South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,368.62. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.2 percent to 25,862.99 and China’s Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.5 percent to 3,091.66. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.6 percent to 5,754.90.
CURRENCIES: The euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.1250 while the dollar rose 0.1 percent to 110.50 yen.