European Factors to Watch - shares to edge down on early Fed exit risk
* Adds further detail, live quotes, company news By Francesco Canepa LONDON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - European stocks are seen opening slightly lower on Friday as concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve may end its asset-buying programme ahead of time curbed appetite for shares in the run up to key U.S. jobs data. At 0719 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50 and France's CAC were down 0.3 percent, while contracts on Germany's DAX shed 0.2 percent. Minutes from the Fed's December policy meeting released on Thursday showed some voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee were increasingly worried about the potential risks of the Fed's asset purchases on financial markets, even if it looked set to continue an open-ended stimulus programme for now. Justin Haque, a pan-European trader at Hobart Capital Markets said worries about an early end to the Fed's quantitative easing programme may result in some market jitters this quarter, although he remained optimistic that the programme would continue until the end of the year, supporting equity markets. "The hawks are beginning to voice their opinion," Haque said. "It's a small note in the diary for now but we're basically trading off noise, therefore we should be mindful of that." Investors were reluctant to place big bets on equities before key unemployment data from the United States at 1330 GMT, which will shed light on the pace of the recovery in the world's largest economy and give an indication of how much longer the Federal Reserve's ultra-accommodative policy was likely to last. Data on Thursday showed U.S. private-sector employers stepped up hiring in December, suggesting the economy was gaining some momentum and the job market was growing. The Fed said last month it would keep interest rates near zero until unemployment, expected to have stayed steady at 7.7 percent in December, fell to at least 6.5 percent, and as long as inflation does not rise above 2.5 percent. The U.S. central bank's asset-buying policy and ultra-low interest rates were a key driver behind a 13 percent rally in the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 equity index last year. Along with action by the European Central Bank to calm funding markets, the more hawkish Fed minutes unnerved financial markets late on Thursday, sending Wall Street stocks to a lower close. It was also seen by some as a cushion for the market in the face of likely new political tensions in the United States, where lawmakers were due to discuss cutting government spending and raising the country's debt ceiling over the next two months. "That's what has been holding the market up," Richard Lewis, head of global equities at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, said. "With that bit of comfort the market can afford to observe what is going on in Washington with a bit of tranquillity." Lewis favoured U.S. over European equities in light of stronger economic data on the other side of the Atlantic, as evidenced by recent jobs and housing data. The FTSEurofirst 300 was at its most "overbought" in three years, its 14-day Relative Strength Index showed, meaning some short-term investors may start to take some profit on the index. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0719 GMT: S&P 500 1,459.37 -0.21 % -3.05 NIKKEI 10,688.11 2.82 % 292.93 MSCI ASIA <.MIASJ000 -0.58 % -3.28 EX-JP PUS> EUR/USD 1.3016 -0.23 % -0.0030 USD/JPY 87.82 0.68 % 0.5900 10-YR US <US10YT=RR 1.931 -- 0.02 TSY YLD 10-YR <EU10YT=RR 1.487 -- 0.00 BUND YLD SPOT GOLD $1,649.54 -0.81 % -$13.41 US CRUDE $92.22 -0.75 % -0.70 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares drop on Fed minutes, dollar gains > Fed minutes short-circuit Wall St rally > Nikkei hits 22-month high as US cliff averted > TREASURIES-Benchmark yields hit 8-month high on Fed wariness > Dollar hits 29-month high vs yen; U.S. jobs data awaited > Gold slips 1 pct on Fed minutes; firm dollar > London copper weakens, U.S. fiscal deal euphoria fades > Brent falls below $112 as Fed minutes weigh COMPANY NEWS BMW BMW said its U.S. December sales rose 34.8 percent to 43,855 vehicles. DAIMLER Mercedes-Benz USA said sales in December totalled 31,372 vehicles, up 12 percent from the same month last year. VOLKSWAGEN U.S. sales for its namesake brand and luxury brands Audi and Porsche rose 31.5 percent in December. PPR The French luxury group is in exclusive talks to sell its Cyrillus and Vert Baudet children's apparel brands to Alpha Private Equity Fund for an enterprise value of 119 million euros. EADS Airbus looks set to post sales of around 900 aircraft for 2012 and exceed its target of 580 deliveries after a record month in December, a Reuters analysis of industry figures showed. STRAUMANN Dental implant maker Straumann said on Friday it appointed Marco Gadola as chief executive as it seeks to improve its performance in increasingly challenging dental implant markets. NOVARTIS Britain's healthcare costs watchdog has given its backing to eye drug Lucentis after Swiss drugmaker Novartis NOVN.VX offered it at a discount to the country's National Health Service. CREDIT SUISSE Credit Suisse is preparing to offload more risk exposure to staff in its 2012 bonus giveaway but significantly fewer managers will be allowed to join the latest version of a scheme that has yielded stellar rewards in previous years. TRANSOCEAN Transocean Ltd agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle U.S. government charges over BP Plc's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 and the rig contractor admitted that its crew on the Deepwater Horizon was partly responsible.
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