Insurers keep European stocks steady

March 15, 2016 | 04:19 am PT
European shares were steady on Thursday, helped by gains in insurers such as Aviva and Hannover Re, while expectations of more stimulus measures from the European Central Bank also supported equities.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index and the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index both rose by 0.1 percent.

The ECB is set to unveil its second stimulus cocktail in three months on Thursday, spurred by fears that low energy costs are feeding into wages and prices, potentially perpetuating ultra-low inflation.

The euro zone's central bank is widely expected to cut its deposit rate deeper into negative territory and adjust its 1.5 trillion euro asset-buying scheme, hoping to boost prices after inflation dipped back into negative territory last month.

Prospects of more action from the ECB put the euro under pressure on currency markets, and this in turn helped European stocks, since a weaker euro makes European companies' exports more affordable overseas.

"The weak euro is positive for equities," said Hantec Markets' analyst Richard Perry.

British insurer Aviva rose 5 percent after posting higher profits and dividends, while reinsurer Hannover Re also climbed after it increased its total dividend and its net profit surpassed the billion-euro mark for the first time.

However, Lagardere shares slumped after results from the media group underwhelmed investors, while fertiliser group K+S also fell 4.9 percent after it warned of a significant drop in operating profit this year.- Reuters

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