Investors anticipating US rates hike keep their powder dry on holiday

Janet Yellen

European stocks were little changed amid thin trading as investors considered the implications of a possible increase in US interest rates after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said a hike is likely in the coming months.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.1% to 350.14 at the close of trading, after briefly rising as much as 0.2%. 

The number of shares changing hands on the gauge was about 74% lower than the 30-day average. Financial markets in the US and UK were shut for holidays.

Ms Yellen said late Friday that an improving American economy would probably warrant another increase in borrowing costs “in the coming months”, a view also recently expressed by several regional Fed chiefs. 

She was speaking after data showed US growth picked up more in the first quarter than was previously estimated. 

Traders have increased the odds of an interest-rate increase in June to 36% and to 59% for July.

European stocks last week rose the most since February, capping their longest streak of weekly gains since March and are 0.2% away from an April 20 high.

Among stocks moving on corporate news yesterday, Belgian postal company Bpost SA fell 2.4% after saying it failed to reach an agreement to buy PostNL NV of the Netherlands following speculation of an imminent merger. 

PostNL NV gained 3.5%.

Banco Popular Espanol SA added 0.6% after Spanish newspaper Expansion reported that the lender has orders exceeding €4bn for its €2.5bn planned capital increase.


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