By Peter Nurse
Investing.com - European stock markets largely edged higher Thursday, with investors keeping track of developments in Ukraine and the French presidential campaign.
The war in Ukraine remains at the forefront of investors’ thinking, with Russia now focusing on overrunning the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, a campaign that the West anticipates could last many months.
G7 finance ministers announced plans to provide additional support to Ukraine of at least $24 billion for 2022 and beyond, adding that sanctions “are already having the intended massive impact.”
Additionally, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to deliver later Thursday an update on the Russian invasion amid expectations that he will announce another arms package for Ukraine’s military, following on from the $800 million deal announced last week.
Elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen took part in a heated TV debate late Wednesday, ahead of Sunday’s vote which is set to decide the path of Europe’s second largest economy for the next five years.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde is set to take part in a panel discussion at the IMF-World Bank meeting later Thursday, along with Fed Chair Jerome Powell . Her comments will be studied carefully for clues of future monetary policy, particularly after ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos joined a growing chorus acknowledging the possibility of an interest rate hike as early as July.
In corporate news, Nestle (SIX: NESN ) stock rose 1.6% after the Swiss food group confirmed its targets for 2022 after strong price increases helped organic sales rise more than expected in the first quarter.
ABB (SIX: ABBN ) stock rose 4.1% after the engineering company posted a big jump in orders in its first quarter, shrugging off the uncertainties surrounding the war in Ukraine and soaring inflation.
Oil prices edged higher Thursday, helped by signs of strong U.S. demand as the global supply situation remains tight.
Crude oil supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration , released Wednesday, showed a draw of 8 million barrels for the week ended April 15, confirming the strong numbers released the previous session by the industry body American Petroleum Institute .
OPEC member Libya said on Wednesday it was losing more than 550,000 barrels per day of oil output due to blockades, while the European Union is considering a ban on Russian oil for its invasion of Ukraine.
That said, the COVID situation in China remains a concern, with Shanghai authorities keeping tough restrictions in place for now as the number of cases across the city rose again.
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