European Factors to Watch -Shares to pause as results paint mixed picture
LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - European stocks were expected to open flat-to-lower on Wednesday as a batch of mixed corporate earnings from key blue-chip companies prompted a pause after solid gains in the previous session. Figures from French bank Societe Generale and Nordic Mobile telecoms firm Telenor missed analyst expectations, hit by weakness in the euro zone and Denmark respectively. But Heineken, the world's third largest brewer, beat consensus thanks to growth in Africa and the Americas, and Britain's household goods firm Reckitt Benckiser beat full-year earning expectations, benefitting from sales of medicines and tissues in an unusually heavy U.S. cold and flu season. At 0722 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50 were 0.1 percent lower, contracts on Germany's DAX were flat and France's CAC futures were down 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was seen opening 23 to 25 points lower, or as much as 0.4 percent, according to financial spreadbetters, with ex-dividend factors accounting for around 17 points of that expected fall as market-makers adjusted prices for key stocks such as AstraZeneca and BP. The euro zone Euro STOXX 50 index rose 1 percent to 2,648.83 points on Tuesday, halting at a technical resistance level roughly corresponding to the 61.8 percent retracement of the selloff seen in the second half of 2011. The index has retreated from an 18-month high hit last month as investors took profit on a 34 percent rally on the index between June and the end of January. A Nomura sentiment indicator based on mutual fund flows showed investors were at their most optimistic in the index's 10-year history, apart from two periods between February and March 2000 and April to May 2006, which were followed by market declines in the following weeks. "Recent inflows into equity mutual funds have been extended, reflecting very bullish sentiment," Nomura's analyst Mark Diver said. "This has often historically been followed by short term market declines in subsequent weeks." But Diver remained bullish on equities on a six to 12 months views, arguing a rotation out of low-yielding bonds into asset classes offering higher returns, such as equities, should support shares in the next six to 12 months. Euro zone equities offered annual returns 9.2 percent higher than the 10-year German Bund for the next 12 months, Datastream data showed. Charts showed the Euro STOXX 50 has already started slowly to rebound from a one-month low hit last week, helped by improved sentiment in the euro zone after a strong auction of Spanish debt and reassuring comments by the ECB President Mario Draghi earlier this week. The index has found support at 2,600 points, a technical level corresponding to the 50 percent retracement of a rally between November and January and it was likely to rise back to its previous high at 2,754, said Nicolas Suiffet, an analyst at Paris-based firm Trading Central said. "From a chartist point of view, the short term bullish trend remains intact," Suiffet said. "Thus, the current correction could be seen as a buying opportunity for investors who felt left out from the previous rally." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 611 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,519.43 0.16 % 2.42 NIKKEI 11,251.41 -1.04 % -117.71 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 555 0.6 % 3.45 EUR/USD 1.3446 -0.05 % -0.0007 USD/JPY 93.16 -0.32 % -0.3000 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.973 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.638 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,649.21 -0.07 % -$1.19 US CRUDE $97.56 0.05 % 0.05 > Australia banks lift Asian shares, yen firmer > Wall Street ends slightly higher, Dow near a record > Nikkei slips on profit-taking, Gree tumbles > TREASURIES-Prices dip before retail data > Yen holds gains after gyrations on G7 confusion > Palladium hits 17-mth peak, gold off 1-mth low > Copper inches higher as China outlook lends support > Brent steadies as higher demand outlook supports COMPANY NEWS SOCIETE GENERALE The French bank named a new chief financial officer and reshuffled its management team after swinging to a loss in the fourth quarter on the back of a weak euro zone economy and one-off charges. Former Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel, who was sentenced to three years in jail and ordered to repay his former employer 4.9 billion euros, has asked an employment tribunal to rule on whether he is liable for the losses the bank said he incurred in France's largest trading scandal. HEINEKEN The world's third-largest brewer reported higher-than-expected 2012 profit on the back of sharply higher earnings from Africa and the Americas and forecast higher volumes and revenue this year. ING The Dutch banking and insurance group announced another 2,400 job cuts in the Netherlands and Belgium as it prepares to separate its banking and insurance operations against a backdrop of tough financial markets. TOTAL The French oil major posted a 13 percent rise in fourth-quarter adjusted net profit thanks to high oil prices and a bump in refining margins, prompting it to increase its exploration budget. It said it would pay a dividend of 2.34 euros per share for 2012, an increase of 3 percent from 2011. Paris prosecutors asked a criminal court to fine the company 750,000 euros for corrupting foreign agents during the U.N. oil-for-food programme for Iraq a decade ago. PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN The French carmaker unveiled a 5 billion-euro net loss for 2012, bloated by asset write-downs, and vowed to halve cash consumption this year even as European car demand shrinks further. LAGARDERE, VIVENDI French media and telecoms group Vivendi said it would fight a legal claim for 1.6 billion euros by media group Lagardere relating to the companies' Canal+ pay-TV joint venture. Lagardere said the deadlock with Vivendi prevented it from going ahead with an initial public offering of its Canal+ stake "in normal conditions" BAYER Bayer said the Food and Drug Administration has granted priority review to the New Drug Application filed in December 2012 for the investigational oncology compound radium-223 dichloride (radium-223). The application is under review for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) patients with bone metastases. K+S The world's top potash producers may abandon attempts to rein in output to keep prices high, switching to a strategy of ramping up sales as they face rising competition and big buyers of fertilizer take an increasingly aggressive stance. TUI Indicated 0.2 percent higher The German travel and tourism group reported first quarter results that beat expectations helped by earnings from Europe's largest tour operator TUI Travel and a better profitability at its hotel business. HOCHTIEF Indicated 2.4 percent higher. Leighton, a unit of German construction company Hochtief, which in turn is controlled by Spain's ACS, reported a smaller-than-expected 3 percent fall in second-half net profit and forecast a stronger 2013, sending its shares up 4 percent.
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