Europe Factors to Watch-Shares seen flat to higher; Spain auction eyed
PARIS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - European stocks are seen flat to slightly higher on Thursday, following the previous day's roller-coaster session, as investors remained cautious ahead of Spain's bond auction and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's press conference. At 0731 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50 were up 0.23 percent, for Germany's DAX flat and for France's CAC up 0.2 percent. Spain is set to raise up to 4.5 billion euros at a bond auction on Thursday, with the results due around 0940 GMT. Investors will closely watch the results to see the potential impact from rising political uncertainty over a corruption scandal and rekindled fears over the health of the country's economy. The ECB is seen holding interest rates on Thursday, with the focus on Draghi's press conference. The central bank president will face a grilling over the ECB's sensitivity to the euro's recent sharp rally, as well as over an Italian banking scandal. The banking sector will be in focus again on Thursday after Credit Suisse unveiled fourth-quarter net profit that missed expectations, hurt by sluggish results from its investment bank. After a brisk rally in January, the STOXX banking sector index has lost about 4.4 percent over the past week, while the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index has dropped 5 percent, surrendering all its lofty gains made since the beginning of the year. "The medium and long-term positive trend is still intact, although on the short-term, we're turning 'neutral', indexes are very close to key support levels," Aurel BGC chartist Gerard Sagnier said. "For the Euro STOXX 50, the support is at 2.610 points, while the resistances are at 2,660 and 2715." European stocks have sharply risen since mid-2012, lifted by bold actions from central banks to boost liquidity and resolve Europe's debt crisis, however the region's equities remain cheap compared to U.S. stocks. The broad STOXX Europe 600 index trades at 12 times 12-month forward earnings, its highest price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) in nearly three years, although still below a 10-year average of 12.2, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream. European stocks also look cheap when compared to companies' book value. The average price-to-book ratio of the STOXX 600 is 1.6, well below a 10-year average of 2.1. By comparison, Wall Street's S&P 500 trades at a P/E ratio of 13.4 and a P/B ratio of 2.2. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0730 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,512.12 0.05 % 0.83 NIKKEI 11,357.07 -0.93 % -106.68 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 550.56 -0.42 % -2.33 EUR/USD 1.3524 0.03 % 0.0004 USD/JPY 93.55 -0.09 % -0.0800 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.969 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.631 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,676.75 -0.02 % -$0.36 US CRUDE $96.58 -0.04 % -0.04 > Asian shares pause, caution before ECB > Wall Street ends flat as investors pull back > Nikkei slips off 4-year high on pause in yen's drop; Sony rises > Bonds steady as stock market rally pauses; ECB in focus > Euro rally stalls again as ECB meeting looms > Gold awaits ECB meeting, PGMs near 17-month highs > LME copper holds below 4-month top ahead of ECB meet > Brent steady near $117 as traders eye ECB meeting, China data COMPANY NEWS: CREDIT SUISSE Credit Suisse said on Thursday it will cut more costs, after fourth-quarter net profit missed expectations on sluggish results from its investment bank. SANOFI Sanofi reported a 24 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit on Thursday and predicted growth would resume in the second half of 2013 once the impact of drug patent losses eases. ALCATEL-LUCENT Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen is to step down after the troubled telecom equipment maker's May 7 annual shareholder meeting when his current contract expires, Le Monde reported. A company spokeswoman had no immediate comment. MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA Italy's third biggest lender said on Wednesday that losses stemming from three 2006-09 derivatives trades stood at 730.3 million euros, before taking into account any possible fiscal impact. Monte dei Paschi misled the Bank of Italy over a 1-billion euro hybrid instrument it used to partly fund its acquisition of rival bank Antonveneta, Siena prosecutors alleged in a document reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday. IMPREGILO Builder Salini, which owns just under 30 percent of Impregilo, on Wednesday offered four euros cash for each ordinary share it does not own in Italy's largest construction group, valuing the whole company around 1.6 billion euros. TELECOM ITALIA, TELECOM ITALIA MEDIA Stagnating revenues may force the Italian operator to cut its dividend again as it continues negotiating a possible sale of a stake in its fixed network and seeks to trim debt to hold on to its present credit rating. SOCIETE GENERALE Private-equity group Carlyle said it had completed a deal to buy the French bank's Los Angeles-based asset-management arm, TCW, alongside the unit's management. SANTANDER Chrysler Group LLC agreed to make Banco Santander's U.S. arm its preferred lender for auto loans on Wednesday, enabling financing for a wider range of its clients and dealers. VUELING, IAG The International Airline Group said it had ruled out raising a 113 million euros ($153 million) bid to buy out the shares it does not already own in Spanish budget carrier Vueling. Separately, labour unions called 15 days of strikes in February against Iberia's planned job and wage cuts. TOTAL The oil giant said it had received offers from Borealis to buy its GPN and Rosier fertilizer businesses and planned to present the deals to workers' representatives. ORKLA The Norwegian conglomerate reported a fourth-quarter EBIT of 1.1 billion Norwegian crowns ($200.4 million), up 26 percent from a year ago and beating analysts forecasts, and said it expected a stable grocery markets in the Nordic countries this year.
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