European stock rise slightly before rate calls

European stocks rose and the euro climbed against the dollar Thursday ahead of interest rate announcements from the ECB and Bank of England, while boardroom shake-ups featured heavily in company news.

London's FTSE 100 index of top companies edged up 0.06 percent to 6,298.88 points in late morning deals. Frankfurt's DAX grew 0.27 percent to 7,603.02 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gained 0.37 percent to 3,656.47.

"European markets are trading in tight ranges as investors stay on the side-lines ahead of the main event today, the ECB meeting," said Anita Paluch, trader at Gekko Global Markets.

Also Thursday, EU leaders head into difficult talks on the bloc's 2014-20 budget under the watchful eye of a newly assertive European parliament hostile to any major spending cuts.

In November, EU leaders tried and failed to narrow sharp differences and while most expect a compromise to emerge this time, there is no certainty other than that the budget talks will be long.

In foreign exchange deals, the European single currency grew to $1.3567 from $1.3519 late in New York on Wednesday. The British pound was higher against the dollar but fell versus the euro.

Gold prices edged up to $1,675.64 an ounce from $1,674.25 on the London Bullion Market on Wednesday.

"Both the pound and the euro are likely to be in the spotlight today as central bank policy for both currencies takes centre stage," said Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets trading group.

Analysts and traders were waiting to see if European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi would say anything about the strengthening euro, which France believes could choke off recovery in the single currency area before it really starts.

The ECB's decision-making governing council is not expected to announce any new policy moves -- either in terms of interest rates or anti-crisis measures -- at its regular monthly meeting in Frankfurt.

With ECB interest rates currently at a record low of 0.75 percent and its latest anti-crisis bazooka -- the so-called OMT -- ready and primed for action, Draghi believes the bank has already done its utmost and it is up to governments to resolve the long-running crisis, economists said.

But with evidence tentatively suggesting that the eurozone could finally be emerging from its three-year-old sovereign debt crisis, the recent rise in the euro to its highest level against the dollar in well over a year could become the focus of attention, analysts said.

In London, the Bank of England is also expected to sit tight by leaving its main interest rate at a record-low 0.50 percent, as Britain stands on the brink of enduring a third recession in five years.

In company activity, shares in Burberry tumbled 4.0 percent to 1,372 pence after the British luxury clothing and accessories group announced the departure of its chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright.

Shares in Compass rose 1.44 percent to 776.5 pence after the world's biggest caterer by sales said its chairman Roy Gardner would retire in a year's time.

Aviva gained 1.36 percent to 358 pence as the British insurer's new chief executive Mark Wilson announced a number of appointments aimed at strengthening his leadership team.

Away from executive changes, Vodafone reported a fall in third-quarter revenues on "very difficult market conditions" across Europe but reaffirmed its annual guidance for adjusted operating profits -- sending the mobile phone giant's shares rising 2.15 percent to 174 pence.

In Paris, Sanofi slumped 2.19 percent to 67.85 euros after the French drugmaker said the group's annual net profits slid 12.8 percent to 4.97 billion euros ($6.7 billion).

And Daimler rallied 2.66 percent to 44.15 euros after the German automaker said its profit after tax rose by 8.0 percent to 6.495 billion euros in 2012 on the back of record unit sales and revenues.

burs-bcp/rfj/rl

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    EURSGD=X
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    545.SI
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