European Factors to Watch - Shares seen flat to lower, food stocks to weigh
LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - European stocks were expected to open flat to lower Tuesday, with mixed earnings corporate capping appetite for shares and German sentiment data due later in the day likely to determine the market's direction. At 0720 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50 were flat, while contracts on Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE 100 were down 0.1 percent. Most Asian indexes barely moved on Tuesday and their European peers may also struggle for direction early on as Wall Street, the world's largest stock market and a global barometer of investor sentiment towards equities, was shut for a national holiday on Monday. Corporate earnings and outlooks, a key market driver this month, painted a mixed picture. French food group Danone reported fractionally better-than-expected sales for last year but it warned of a blow to its profits in 2013 as economic weakness in southern Europe hits its core dairy business. In a possible further drag to the food and beverages sector, the world's biggest food company, Nestle, has removed beef pasta meals from sale in Italy and Spain after finding traces of horse DNA. Spanish motorway group Abertis managed to meet analyst expectations with its full-year profit as traffic declines in France and Spain were offset by growth in Latin America. Of interest to the European auto sector, Bridgestone forecast a 34 percent jump in operating profit for this year, sending its shares up 10.3 percent in Tokio. With just over a third of the European earnings season now behind us, 39 percent of companies that have reported so have missed consensus estimates, leading analysts to cut their 2013 estimates by 2.1 percent, Starmine data showed. Markets may also take cue from Germany's ZEW survey, a gauge of investor and analyst sentiment in Europe's largest economy due to be published at 1000 GMT. Economists were expecting the index to have risen to 35 points this month from 31.5 in January. "With the German ZEW confidence numbers due later today (the Dax) is likely to show improvement," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, said in a trading note. The euro zone blue-chip Euro STOXX 50, up 0.1 percent at 2,616.65 on Monday, has fallen nearly 6 percent since the start of February as lacklustre corporate earnings fuelled some profit-taking after a strong start to the year and investors grew anxious about a tight general election race in debt-laden Italy. Arthur Van Slooten, a strategist at Societe Generale in Paris, said the recent pullback could provide a buying opportunity in euro zone banks and southern European shares if the Italian vote on Feb 24-25 delivers a government likely to continue with reforms to tackle Italy's debt problems. "There is some uncertainty about Italy because of the elections but I do not expect extreme outcomes," Van Slooten said. "Assuming that the outcome will not be as bad as feared in this point in time...within financials we would still see (buying) possibilities." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0620 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG NIKKEI 11,372.34 -0.31 % -35.53 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 555.60 -0.26 % -1.43 EUR/USD 1.3339 -0.09 % -0.0012 USD/JPY 93.52 -0.46 % -0.4300 10-YR BUND YLD 1.618 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,611.96 0.15 % $2.41 US CRUDE $95.39 -0.49 % -0.47 > Asian shares listless, yen firmer but near lows > Tokyo shares lack direction, Fanuc weighs on Nikkei > Yen rises after Japan plays down foreign bond buying talk > Gold inches up on Asia demand; firm dollar caps gains > London copper up on bargain hunting; China holds fire > Brent holds above $117 after 3-session fall COMPANY NEWS: NESTLE The world's biggest food company removed beef pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain on Monday after tests revealed traces of horse DNA above 1 percent, the Financial Times online reported, citing a company statement. NOBEL BIOCARE Swiss dental implant maker Nobel Biocare said it expects difficult conditions this year, after fourth-quarter net profit dropped 16 percent to 11.2 million euros ($14.95 million) amid a sharp fall in sales in Japan. SANOFI The French drugmaker said on Tuesday that its experimental diabetes drug lixisenatide has been accepted for review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. MAN SE Chief Financial Officer Frank Lutz is leaving the company with immediate effect, before the group becomes fully integrated into Volkswagen. RWE Czech energy firm EPH will bid with a partner for Net4Gas, the Czech gas transmission system operator owned by RWE, a spokesman said on Monday. DAIMLER, BMW, VW German proposals to protect its output of big, luxury cars threaten EU plans to limit carbon emissions by 2020 and could jeopardise future ambitions, a document from the bloc's executive said on Monday. DEUTSCHE BANK, Commerzbank Bankers' bonuses could be pegged at no more than their annual salaries if European Union lawmakers and member states reach agreement in key talks on Tuesday. KLOECKNER German billionaire Albrecht Knauf has taken a 7.8 percent stake in the steel distributor, becoming its largest shareholder.
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