Chinese stocks down as USA tariffs loom, Companies & Markets News & Top Stories

Drama Over?       Italian two-year yields though not back to pre-crisis levels are much lower than in late May

CURRENCIES: The dollar was flat at 110.65 yen and the euro strengthened to $1.1591 from $1.1560. The euro's drop pulled the dollar higher with the index up 0.1 per cent on the day at 93.81.

The UK wasn't the only country to publish some impressive retail data on Thursday, with the Pound US Dollar (GBP/USD) exchange rate nosediving yesterday after following some solid US sales figures.

Elsewhere, the Canadian dollar edged lower against its United States counterpart as the greenback broadly climbed and after Italy added to Canada's uncertain trade outlook, saying it will not ratify the European Union's free trade accord with the country.

The ECB said it would taper its bond-buying programme down to 15 billion euros a month in the fourth quarter from 30 billion euros a month now in a move that broadly met market expectations.

The euro was headed for its worst weekly loss in 19 months after the European Central Bank signalled on Thursday it will keep interest rates at record lows into at least mid-2019, even as it pledged to end its massive bond purchase scheme by the end of this year.

European Central Bank vice-president Luis de Guindos said in his opening remarks to the press conference that followed in Riga: "The risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook remain broadly balanced". USA officials say the tariff hike targets goods that might benefit from Chinese theft of technology or pressure on foreign companies to hand it over in exchange for market access.

It revised annual inflation forecast notably up for 2018 and 2019, namely to 1.7 percent for both years, basically meeting ECB's policy aim - below but close to 2 percent in the medium term.

Sterling was 0.16 percent higher at $1.3282.

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Japan's Nikkei average closed up 0.5 percent and Australian shares ended 1.3 percent higher.

Today, the European Central Bank meets in Latvia to review monetary policy settings for the Eurozone.

For years since the Great Recession, central banks around the world have thrown massive amounts of stimulus at markets, chiefly through the purchase of billions of dollars of bonds each month.

Just hours before the ECB's announcement, the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates for the second time in 2018, bringing into sharp focus the fact that the flow of easy money in Europe and America over the past decade is gradually ending.

Another concern for policymakers will be the arrival of a new coalition government in Italy and it will be keen for its stimulus programme to not be seen as enabling the government's controversial spending plans.

Oil prices, meanwhile, fell sharply a week before a crunch meeting of OPEC and its allies who are to decide whether to extend a production cut agreement that has been in force since the end of 2016.

Brent crude, the global standard, fell 13 cents to $75.81 per barrel.

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