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Europe stocks near record as markets expect first ECB rate cut since 2019; Novo Nordisk up 3.1%

LONDON — European stocks were higher Thursday as traders anticipated that the European Central Bank will cut borrowing costs for the euro area for the first time since September 2019.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 approached a record intraday high, up 0.7% at around 11:40 a.m. London time. All major bourses and the vast majority of sectors were trading in the green, with tech stocks jumping 1.6% while telecoms fell 0.2%.

Health care stocks added 1%, with Danish pharmaceuticals giant Novo Nordisk climbing as much as 3.9% to hit a fresh record high amid continued demand for its blockbuster Wegovy weight loss drugs. Zealand Pharma, which is also working on a weight loss drug, jumped to the top of the benchmark, up 5.5%

Although the ECB is widely expected to cut interest rates when policymakers meet, investors will be watching closely to see whether a slightly higher-than-expected euro zone inflation print released last Friday affects the central bank's decision-making.

In any case, the ECB meeting has fired up markets elsewhere; Asia-Pacific stocks rose overnight as investors awaited the central bank's rate cut, while softer U.S. labor market data on Wednesday fueled hopes that the U.S. Federal Reserve might follow suit, boosting market sentiment.

U.S. stock futures were little changed in overnight trading after the S&P 500 notched a new record closing high thanks to a rally in artificial intelligence chip darling Nvidia.