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European markets strong on German IFO despite EU Commission trimmed forecasts

The German DAX 30 (+1.13%), the French CAC 40 (+1.84%), the Italian FTSE MIB (+1.29%) and the Spanish IBEX 35 (+1.59%) are stronger on Friday, like all European equity indexes, despite some cuts in the growth forecast of key countries, such as Germany and France, in the European Commission report.

Investors cheered the better than expected German IFO February survey. All three German IFO survey criteria came in higher than expected: Business Climate rose from 104.3 to 107.4 (consensus of 105.0); Current Assessment rose from 108.1 to 110.1 (consensus of 108.5); Expectations rose from 100.6 to 104.6 (consensus of 101.3). Earlier, German GDP figures confirmed the -0.6% quarterly contraction in Q4.

Also on the back of the good mood is Fed's officials attempts to clarify the latest FOMC meeting minutes that alarmed investors of an end to QE sooner than previously thought. Fed's Bernanke will speak next week and might also try to sound dovish to compensate concerns over the minutes.

Markets will also be eyeing this weekend's election in Italy that could be key to what expect from the country in the war against the Eurozone debt crisis.

Futures for the American S&P 500, Nasdaq 100 and Dow Jones are signaling a higher opening between +0.30% and +0.45% ahead of FOMC member Powell and Fed Tarullo's speech later in the US session.

Forex: NZD/USD testing the 0.8400 level after rapid advance

The star performers of the European session Friday have come from the land down under as the antipodean crosses, and more specifically the NZD/USD, has rocketed 20-pips higher in recent moments off the 0.8370 level. At the time of writing the kiwi has reigned in some juicy profits against its American counterpart, establishing session highs in the neighborhood of the 0.8397/00 mark, up 0.67%.
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Forex Flash: Italian election captures weekend spotlight – Deutsche Bank

The marquee event this weekend will be the Italian elections – voting runs from Sunday to Monday at 14:00 (GMT), with early exit polls coming out soon after. The key numbers to look out for will be how the parties stack up towards the 158 seats needed for a majority in the Senate. Since the last polls were published on February 8, there are some unconfirmed reports that suggest the centre-right's momentum seems to have tailed off somewhat, with reports that the populist Five Star Movement has apparently been gaining ground.
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