Europe Factors to Watch-Shares seen flat to slightly higher
PARIS, Feb 11 (Reuters) - European stock index futures pointed to a flat to slightly higher open on Monday, keeping the previous session's recovery rally alive, although the gains could be limited by simmering worries over Spain and Italy. At 0726 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were flat to up 0.2 percent. European stocks have sharply retreated over the past two weeks, with the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index losing as much as 5.7 percent, dragged by rekindled fears over Spain where a scandal on secret cash payments has affected the prime minister, while confidence in Italy has been shaken in the run-up to the Feb. 24-25 election. Late on Friday, Fitch affirmed Spain's investment grade rating but warned that it could still downgrade the country's sovereign bonds in coming months on worries about the economy and public debt levels. Fitch rates Spain BBB, two levels above speculative-grade debt, with a negative outlook. In Italy, outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti on Sunday accused his media magnate rival Silvio Berlusconi of trying to buy votes with impossible promises. With the election two weeks away, polls suggest the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) will win a solid lower house majority but may need a deal with Monti's centrists to gain the control of the Senate. The Euro STOXX 50 gained 1.3 percent on Friday, bouncing after a week-long slide, but the rally wasn't enough to reverse sharp losses suffered earlier in the week. "While Europe's markets enjoyed a rebound on Friday, the fact that they finished the week lower, having given up most of this year's gains, suggests that investor sentiment remains remarkably fragile despite some evidence of a recovery in German and Chinese economic activity last week," Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets, wrote in a note. The return of worries over Southern Europe has dampened investor appetite for European equities, EPFR Global data showed, although overall redemptions for the week from Europe equity funds were a modest $264 million. Most Asian bourses, including those in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, were closed on Monday for the Lunar New Year holiday. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0727 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,517.93 0.57 % 8.54 EUR/USD 1.338 0.13 % 0.0018 USD/JPY 92.54 -0.12 % -0.1100 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.950 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.610 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,666.76 -0.01 % -$0.13 US CRUDE $95.61 -0.11 % -0.11 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro dips, oil steady in holiday-thinned trade > US STOCKS-Stocks end higher for sixth straight week, tech leads > Euro & yen subdued as Asia holiday saps trade > PRECIOUS-Gold ticks higher, thin trade exaggerates moves > METALS-Copper slips in holiday trade, but China outlook supports > Brent oil price slips in light holiday trading COMPANY NEWS: AHOLD The Dutch retailer sold its 60 percent stake in Swedish supermarket chain ICA for about 20 billion Swedish crowns ($3.1 billion) to Hakon Invest , which already owned 40 percent of the grocer, the group said on Monday. VIVENDI Vivendi's video game unit Activision Blizzard posted quarterly results ahead of analysts' expectations, spurring hopes the largest videogames publisher will outperform a bedraggled industry in 2013. MONTE PASCHI The Italian troubled lender is ready to clear the way to receiving 3.9 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in state loans in a "very short time", the bank's Chairman Alessandro Profumo said on Saturday. GALP ENERGIA Portuguese fuel and oil company posted on Monday a sharper-than-expected 10 percent increase in quarterly net profit thanks to higher oil output in Brazil and a rise in refining margins that offset weak domestic sales. NOVO NORDISK U.S. regulators dealt a major blow to Novo Nordisk's hopes for its new long-acting insulin Tresiba by demanding the Danish drugmaker conduct additional clinical tests to assess potential heart risks. SALVATORE FERRAGAMO Italy's celebrity shoemaker sticks to the 20 percent target for its 2013 EBITDA margin, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Sunday. EIFFAGE France's third-largest construction and concessions company met its sales goal of 14 billion euros last year as growth at its construction and public works businesses in France, its largest market, offset a slowdown in the rest of Europe. SIEMENS Siemens has mandated banks for the disposal of its solar unit and its traffic system operations, as well as its postal automation and baggage handling businesses, sources told Reuters on Friday. SOFTWARE AG The German software company expects profit per share to rebound over the medium-term and views acquisitions as "part of our strategy," Welt am Sonntag reported, citing chief executive Karl-Heinz Streibich. SABADELL Chairman of Spain's Banco Sabadell Josep Oliu Creus said in an interview published in Cinco Dias on Monday the bank would focus on potential international acquisitions this year though did not completely rule out studying opportunities at home. ACCOR The French hotel group aims to open a further 90 hotels in fast-growing sub-Saharan Africa by 2020, its head of African and Middle-East operations told French daily Le Figaro on Monday. SYMRISE The German scents and flavours maker expects "significant growth" in 2013 and has unbroken demand for its products, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported, citing finance chief Bernd Hirsch. RENAULT The French carmaker has started recalling over 60,000 cars exported to China due to problems with their fuel level sensors, state news agency Xinhua quoted the Chinese consumer watchdog as saying. VOLKSWAGEN Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said he may stay at the helm of Europe's biggest car maker beyond the term of his current contract to launch the next Golf model, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.