Markets are digesting central banks’ recent policy decisions.
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The Euro and GBP extended strong gains from the prior session to reach new highs as investors priced in tighter monetary policy in Europe, following hawkish comments made by key central bank officials.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi sparked the euro's rally, when he hinted that the ECB could soon start to unwind its massive stimulus program.
Sterling Pound added to gains after Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane said policymakers need to look seriously at raising interest rates. The hawkish remarks came after Governor Mark Carney said on Wednesday that the central bank is likely to need to raise interest rates as the British economy comes closer to operating at full capacity.
The dollar extended its recent decline to the lowest level since October as investors awaited further signs of the Federal Reserve's likely rate hike trajectory through the end of the year.
Traders will keep an eye out on a final reading of U.S. first-quarter economic growth due at 12:30 GMT for further indications on the health of the world's biggest economy.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated earlier this week that the U.S. central bank would continue to gradually raise interest rates later in the year, though a batch of mixed economic data recently has had investors wondering whether it would be able to stay on its planned tightening path.
Several big Wall Street banks announced significant increases in their plans to return capital to shareholders after passing the Federal Reserve's annual stress test.
Citigroup was the highlight in pre-market action, jumping roughly 3% after doubling its quarterly dividend to 32 cents per common share and announcing a common stock repurchase program of up to $15.6 billion late on Wednesday.
JPMorgan Chase was up around 2% after saying it would raise its quarterly dividend by 6 cents to 56 cents a share, effective the third quarter of 2017. The financial giant also said it has authorized share buybacks of up to $19.4 billion between July 1 and June 30 next year.
Bank of America also rallied after announcing plans to increase its quarterly common stock dividend to 12 cents a share, a 60% increase, beginning in the third quarter of 2017. The bank's board also authorized a $12 billion repurchase in common stock from July 1 through June 30, 2018.
Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo were all in the green ahead of the opening bell.
Oil prices extended gains into a sixth session to hit the strongest level in two weeks after U.S. government data revealed the biggest weekly decline in domestic crude production in almost a year.
U.S. crude was at $45.12 a barrel, up 38 cents, or around 0.9%, while Brent oil tacked on 34 cents, or 0.7%, to $47.88 a barrel.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday showed that total domestic crude production fell by 100,000 barrels a day to 9.25 million barrels a day for the week ended June 23. That was the biggest decline in weekly output since July 2016.