Mixed earnings cap gains on European equities ahead of ECB decision

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ECB policy decision expected at 11:45 GMT

Travel stocks lead morning gains

European stock exchanges closed on April 15 and 18

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April 14 (Reuters)European stocks edged higher on Thursday after a string of mixed earnings as investors awaited the European Central Bank’s policy decision amid economic slowdown risks as the Ukraine crisis drives inflation higher.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX rose 0.1% after a strong finish on Wall Street and gains in Asian equities. Eurozone equities .STOXXE slightly higher by 0.3%.

Manufacturer of Birkin Hermès bags HRMS.PA gained 1.4% after its quarterly sales beat estimates, driven by a strong appetite for its luxury accessories, particularly in the United States and Europe.

A beaten journeyn/a leisure actions .SXTP among the sectors, with the low-cost company Wizz Air WIZZ.L up 7.2% on encouraging signs of summer bookings.

Swedish Ericsson ERICb.ST fell 6% after warning of a potential fine from U.S. regulators for its handling of a corruption probe in Iraq and reporting a drop in quarterly profits.

Investors are waiting to see whether the ECB’s decision, expected at 11:45 GMT, will provide a clearer timetable for the end of its bond buying program and subsequent interest rate hikes.

The ECB, which faces a political dilemma over record inflation and slowing eurozone growth from the Ukrainian Warlags behind most other major central banks, which have started rate increase Last year.

“Despite growing risks to growth, our economists continue to expect the ECB to overweight inflation fears,” RBC analysts said in a note. “While playing to buy time, we expect June to be a meeting where other key decisions to guide the tightening process will be taken.”

Traders raised expectations for ECB rate hikes, with money markets pricing a total of 70 basis points of hikes this year, although none of the ECB’s 25 policymakers called for such aggressive tightening.

Worries over rapid rate hikes and a protracted conflict in Ukraine played on investors’ minds, putting the STOXX 600 on track to end the shortened holiday week lower.

European stock exchanges will be closed on Friday and Monday due to the Easter holidays.

Among other actions, the Italian airport and motorway operator Atlantia ATL.MI gained 4.9% after Italian family holding company Benetton and US investment fund Blackstone BX.N said they would spend up to 12.7 billion euros ($14 billion) to take the company private.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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