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EU may give green light to fund cutting edge chip plants, with conditions

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EU may give green light to fund cutting edge chip plants, with conditions
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: EU flags flutter in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

By Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union may ease state-aid rules to allow the funding of new chip plants which could alleviate shortages in the bloc, its competition chief said on Thursday, while resisting pressure led by France for a no-holds-barred approach to subsidies.

Due to its reliance on Asian chips, the EU has been particularly hard hit by an unprecedented global shortage in semiconductors that is holding up the delivery of goods from cars to Playstations and driving up smartphone prices worldwide.

“The Commission may consider approving public support to fill possible funding gaps in the semiconductor ecosystem for the establishment in particular … of first-of-its-kind facilities,” Margrethe Vestager told the European Parliament.

The Commission, which oversees antitrust policy in the 27 EU countries, would seek to ensure such support was subject to strong competition safeguards though and that the benefits were shared widely and without discrimination across the European economy, she added, following up on earlier warnings of a subsidy race.

The U.S. last year announced its CHIPS for America Act aimed at boosting its ability to compete with Chinese technology while the EU – seeking to double the bloc’s share of global chip output to 20% over the next decade – plans to adopt its own chips act in 2022.

The U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp (NASDAQ:) has said it could invest as much as 80 billion euros ($91 billion) in Europe over the next decade, with Germany and France seen as the leading contenders for production sites.

France had been pushing for the EU to allow subsidies with fewer restrictions, but smaller nations such as the Netherlands and Ireland had argued that allowing excessive and non-targeted use of strategic funds would cause unfair competition within the bloc.

The Commission, meanwhile, also strengthened its control of acquisitions in the digital sector, reacting to increasing concern about the dominance of U.S. tech giants and Chinese state entities acquiring EU technologies.

“This encourages member states to refer potentially problematic transactions for its review, even if they do not meet national notification thresholds,” the Commission said.

“And (it) allows the Commission to review acquisitions of innovative companies having competitive potential beyond what their turnover would indicate, in particular in the digital sector.”

France and Germany have argued that antitrust policy should not hinder the creation of European champions that can compete more effectively against huge global players, particularly from China, recalling regulators blocking mergers such as Siemens’ planned acquisition of France’s Alstom (PA:) in 2019.

As COVID infection numbers reached new records in some EU member states, the Commission extended looser state aid rules for virus-hit companies for six months to June 2022 in a bid to slowly wean them off more than 3 trillion euros ($3.4 trillion) provided across the EU.

($1 = 0.8825 euros)

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Stock Markets

European stock markets mostly closed lower

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european stock markets

In yesterday’s trading, most European stock markets declined after the release of statistical data, which showed a decline in business activity in the region for the fifth month in a row.

The composite index of the largest companies in the region, Stoxx Europe 600, by market close fell by 0.3% to 441.47 points. Germany’s Dax Index fell by 0.56%; France’s CAC 40 – by 0.67%; Italy’s FTSE MIB – by 0.3% and Spain’s IBEX 35 – by 0.15%. Meanwhile, the British FTSE 100 added 0.15%, thanks to growth in shares of some major companies. 

Why are European stock markets falling?

According to final data, the composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of the euro area, calculated by S & P Global, in November rose to 47.8 points from 47.3 points a month earlier. The dynamics of the indicator coincided with the preliminary estimate and with the expectations of analysts.

The indicator value below 50 points indicates a reduction in business activity in the sector. The index has remained below that mark for five consecutive months amid an energy and geopolitical crisis in Europe, the acceleration of inflation and rising interest rates, says Trading Economics.

PMI in the euro area services sector in November was 48.5 points, down 0.1 points compared with October. Preliminary data indicated that the indicator remained at the October level of 48.6 points.

Retail sales in the euro area fell 1.8 percent in October compared with the previous month, according to a report from the European Union Statistics Office (Eurostat). Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected on average a decline of 1.7 percent.

Sales of food, beverages and tobacco products in the currency bloc fell 1.5% in October compared with the previous month, with non-food products down 2.1%. Motor fuel sales increased by 0.3%.

Meanwhile, some support to the European market was provided by news about the relaxation of anti-coronavirus restrictions in several major cities in China.

The attention of market participants is gradually shifting to the last meetings of the US Federal Reserve System (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) this year, which will be held next week.

The consensus is that both the U.S. and European Central Banks will slow the pace of key interest rate hikes to 50 basis points. The Fed has raised the rate by 75 bps at the previous four meetings, while the ECB has raised the rate at two meetings.

Earlier we reported that the main European stock indices fell during the trading on December 3.

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Stats had a positive effect on the European stock market. European growth stocks

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european growth stocks

West European stock indexes closed Wednesday’s trading with a confident growth. Traders evaluated the fresh batch of statistics and bought European growth stocks.

What influenced European stocks to high growth?

GDP volume in France rose 0.2% in the third quarter compared to the previous three months, final data from the national statistics institute Insee showed. The final data coincided with a preliminary estimate. Analysts, on average, had not expected a revision, according to a Trading Economics survey. GDP growth slowed from a 0.5% rebound in the second quarter.

Consumer prices in France, harmonized with European Union standards, rose 7.1% year-over-year in November. Insee also reported. The November rate of increase in consumer prices coincided with that of October, and analysts polled by Trading Economics expected inflation to remain at the same level.

Consumer spending in the country collapsed by 2.8% in October compared with the previous month. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected a more moderate decline of 1 percent. The consensus forecast of experts polled by Trading Economics envisioned a 0.6% decline. The decrease in consumer spending was the maximum since April 2021.

The number of unemployed in Germany increased by 17 thousand in November, according to the Federal Employment Agency of Germany. The rise in the index was marked at the end of the sixth month in a row. Experts interviewed by Bloomberg agency, on average, predicted an increase of 13.5 thousand. Respondents to Trading Economics expected an increase of 13 thousand.

Additional positives for investors in European markets on Wednesday were messages about easing of coronavirus restrictions in a lot of cities in China. Note that Amazon’s stock price is also rising if you are interested in the U.S. stock market.

Earlier, we reported that U.S. stock indices were up 2.2-4.4%.

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U.S. stock indices today rose 2.2-4.4%

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U.S. stock indices today

The U.S. stock indices today closed the trading on Wednesday with the confident growth due to the statements of the Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, who confirmed that the U.S. Central Bank could slow down the basic rate rise as early as in December.

Judging by the quotations of futures on the level of the prime rate, U.S. stock market indices expect the Federal Reserve to raise it by 50 basis points (bps) in December – to 4.25-4.5%. The U.S. Central Bank has increased the rate by 75 bps at each of the previous four meetings. Against this background, the current stock price of Facebook also rose.

The report by the industry organization ADP, published on Wednesday, showed a slowdown in job growth in the U.S. private sector. Their number increased by 127,000 in November, the lowest rate since January, said the ADP. Analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal on average had forecast job growth of 190,000 after a jump of 239,000 in October.

Data from the U.S. Commerce Department, also released Nov. 30, showed higher-than-reported growth in the U.S. economy in the third quarter. U.S. GDP grew at an annualized rate of 2.9% in the July-September quarter, rather than the previously reported 2.6%. Experts polled by Trading Economics had expected an average revision of 2.7%.

Also, the Federal Reserve released its regional Beige Book survey Wednesday, showing that economic activity in the United States was little changed in the fall.

Federal Reserve banks in five counties reported a weak increase in activity in October and November, while the other seven reported a stable or slightly declining economy.

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average index was up 737.24 points (2.18%) at 34589.77 as of Wednesday’s market close.

  • Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 122.48 points (3.09%) to 4,080.11 points.

  • The Nasdaq Composite added 484.22 points (4.41%) to 1,468.

All three U.S. stock market indices closed November, with the Dow Jones gaining 5.3%; the S&P 500 gaining 4.6%, and the Nasdaq Composite gaining 3.3%.

Earlier we reported that Main European stock indices were rising during trading.

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