European Factors to Watch-Shares to open flat, focus on Fed
LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - European shares were set for a steady open near two-year highs on Wednesday, with "overbought" technical conditions prompting investors to trade cautiously before the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting later in the day. The market will focus on the central bank's statement after a two-day meeting for hints about any change in its stance on stimulus measures in the wake of recent improvement in leading global macroeconomic indicators. Latest data on Tuesday showed U.S. home prices rose in November, while China's top think-tank raised its growth forecast for the world's second-biggest economy. Charts showed major stock indexes had become "overbought" and were vulnerable to a pullback. The FTSEurofirst 300 index's 14-day relative strength index (RSI) was at 71, while it was 69 for the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50. An RSI above 70 is considered as "overbought", which often results in a retreat for stock indexes. A level below 30 is seen as "oversold." The FTSEurofirst 300 ended 0.4 percent higher at 1,177.79 points on Tuesday, its highest close since February 2011, taking the rally off its June lows to around 24 percent. The index is on track to post its best monthly performance since July 2012. At 0737 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were flat. Analysts said more earnings releases and economic data in the coming days could determine the market's short-term direction. Swedish banks Nordea and Swedbank both beat expectations for quarterly operating earnings and raised on Wednesday their dividends. In the United States, Amazon.com Inc shares hit a record on Tuesday after it reported better-than-expected quarterly profit. "Equity markets continue to be in good health and the picture continues to be pretty bullish. And given the earnings reports, it is justified so far," Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich, said. "In the short-term, the market is ripe for a consolidation, but this should rather be a shorter-term development." Thomson Reuters data showed that of the 174 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings this season, 68.4 percent have been above expectations. In Europe, just 7 percent of firms on the STOXX Europe 600 have so far reported results, but 67 percent of them have met or beaten forecasts. Focus will be on U.S. data, with Automatic Data Processing (ADP) releasing its January employment report at 1315 GMT, the Mortgage Bankers Association releasing its weekly mortgage index for the week ended Jan. 25 at 1200 GMT and the commerce department announcing the advance (first) estimate of Q4 gross domestic product at 1330 GMT. MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0739 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,507.84 0.51 % 7.66 NIKKEI 11,113.95 2.28 % 247.23 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 557.99 0.48 % 2.69 EUR/USD 1.351 0.14 % 0.0019 USD/JPY 90.96 0.25 % 0.2300 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.010 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.706 -- 0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,667.64 0.25 % $4.19 US CRUDE $97.65 0.08 % 0.08 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- * Asian shares gain on global recovery outlook, eyes Fed * Nikkei hits new 32-month high on Softbank * Wall St advances as defensive stocks extend rally * Euro steady near 14-mth high, focus on $1.35 resistance * Brent holds above $114 on optimism on U.S. economy * Gold fights to hold ground above key level, Fed in focus * LME copper hits near 3-wk peak on global growth hopes * Prices dip as investors seek to pay less at auctions COMPANY NEWS NORDEA The Nordic region's biggest bank by value posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter operating profits and said it would aim to have flat costs. QIAGEN Genetic testing specialist Qiagen NV exceeded expectations with a 13 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit and the company said it expected sales and profit growth in 2013 thanks to demand for automated diagnostics gear. SWEDBANK Swedish banking group Swedbank posted a fourth-quarter operating profit that topped forecasts and said it was raising its dividend payout ratio to 75 percent. ROCHE Swiss drugmaker Roche expects sales to hold up this year as strong sales of its top three cancer medicine and improvements in productivity helped it post an 11 percent rise in full-year earnings. SANOFI The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a drug made by the French drugmaker and Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc designed to treat a rare genetic disorder that causes dangerously high levels of bad LDL cholesterol. BP A U.S. judge accepted an agreement by the oil company to plead guilty for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties for the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, drawing a line under federal suits against the firm but not civil or state cases. SAIPEM The Italian oil service group said on Tuesday it had cut its 2012 guidance after a review of the group's contracts and prospects. BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA The bank's risk control unit and its internal audit committee had expressed serious misgivings about the bank's finance department, now at the centre of a scandal about shady structured finance trades, as far back as November 2009, according to internal documents. JOHNSON MATTHEY Platinum refiner Johnson Matthey saw profits dip in the third quarter because of lower sales of catalysts for vehicle exhaust systems in the high-value diesel category in Europe and weaker demand in Japan.