Marketmind: Is the ECB done?

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Tom Westbrook

The European Central Bank sets interest rates later today and traders figure we are at or near the peak.

An increase of 25 basis points would take the rate on bank deposits to 4%, the highest since the euro launched in 1999.

Yet enough is priced in that any immediate risk to the currency is probably skewed to the downside. If there isn’t a hike, the euro may fall, and if there is, markets will likely assume it is the last and on that basis be sellers.

The euro steadied at $1.0742 during a quiet Asian session.

Notwithstanding inflation sticking around twice policymakers’ 2% target, Europe’s economy is slowing. Lending growth is crawling and PMI surveys show the downturn in business activity deepening far more than had generally been expected.

Germany is slipping toward recession. Energy is a potential wild card, with tight supply driving oil prices to 10-month highs and gas prices spiking as workers began striking at Chevron facilities in Australia that account for 5% of global LNG.

Later in the day Arm Holdings begins trading in New York after its $51-a-share float gave a $54.5 billion valuation.

Then U.S. retail sales figures are due which, if they fall in with expectations for a slowdown, would reinforce market wagers on the Fed keeping rates on hold this year.

In Asia, bonds and stocks both rallied a little bit, and U.S. and European futures nudged higher. Shares in Chinese electric vehicle makers fell after the European Commission launched an investigation of Chinese subsidies.

Key developments that could influence markets on Thursday:

ECB policy decision

Arm Holdings begins trading

U.S. retail sales