European Factors to Watch - Shares to fall on worries Fed may cut stimulus
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen opening lower on Thursday on concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve might scale back its assets purchase programme, which has helped fuel a rally in equity markets since last summer. Minutes of the latest Fed policy meeting published late on Wednesday showed a number of officials think the central bank might have to slow or stop buying bonds before seeing the pickup in hiring the programme is designed to deliver. At 0727 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50 were down 0.8, contracts for Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.6 percent and futures for France's CAC were 0.7 percent lower. Cyclical shares were expected to come under pressure on worries a withdrawal of the Fed's stimulus measures could dent global economic growth. "We are seeing banks and industrials indicated down," Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at spreadbetter ETX Capital said. "I'd imagine it's going to be the traditional rotation out of cyclicals and into defensives." U.S. shares extended losses after the minutes were published and the CBOE Volatility index, or VIX, a measure of U.S. investor 'fear' closely watched across the globe, jumped 19.3 percent - the biggest daily gain for the VIX since November 2011. The euro zone Euro STOXX 50 rallied 34 percent between June 2012 and January, boosted by expectations the Fed would buy assets to stimulate the U.S. economy and the European Central Bank would support struggling countries in the region. The blue-chip index closed down 0.8 percent at 2,640.35 points on Wednesday, after failing to break a technical resistance at 2,670, corresponding to its 50-day average, in a sign buying momentum remained weak and the index may remain stuck in the 2.8 percent range that has trapped for the past two weeks. The Euro STOXX 50 was down 4 percent from its late January peak, curbed by unimpressive corporate earnings and concerns about general elections in Italy on Feb. 24-25, where a fragmented new parliament may curb the pace of much needed economic reforms. The earnings picture remained blurred on Thursday, with the insurance sector in focus as Europe's largest insurer Allianz beat estimates while No.2 AXA disappointed. Reinsurer Swiss Re reported a better-than-expected net income. With the European earnings season approaching the halfway mark, 39 percent of the STOXX Europe 600 companies that have reported so far miss consensus estimates, StarMine data showed. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0733 LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,511.95 -1.24 % -18.99 NIKKEI 11,309.13 -1.39 % -159.15 MSCI ASIA EX-JP <.MIASJ0000PUS 554.37 -1.38 % -7.74 > EUR/USD 1.3258 -0.17 % -0.0022 USD/JPY 93.41 -0.14 % -0.1300 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.995 -- -0.02 10-YR BUND YLD 1.627 -- -0.04 SPOT GOLD $1,567.50 0.33 % $5.21 US CRUDE $94.39 -0.87 % -0.83 GLOBAL MARKETS-Sentiment rattled by liquidation talk, Fed minutes > Wall St slides as Fed minutes spark concern > Nikkei pulls back from 52-month highs; exporters weigh > U.S. bond prices cling to gains after Fed minutes > Euro extends losses, hits 6-week low vs dollar > Gold hits 7-month low on worries on fate of Fed's stimulus > London copper dips to 2013 low as FOMC minutes spark selling > Brent slips toward $115 as sell-off continues COMPANY NEWS ALLIANZ Indicated 0.4 percent higher The insurance giant said it saw improving prospects for calm in the euro zone as it reported a higher than expected fourth quarter net profit of 1.22 billion euros. AXA Europe's No. 2 insurer said its full-year 2012 net income fell 4 percent on a like-for-like basis compared with a year-ago figure inflated by one-off gains from asset sales. CASINO The French retailer said it was confident it would grow sales and profits this year after it posted a 29.3 percent jump in 2012 operating profit as robust growth in Latin America and Asia offset a weak home market. SAFRAN The French aerospace group posted a 24 percent rise in full-year operating profit, lifted by demand for aircraft engines and maintenance, currency gains and acquisitions. DAIMLER Indicated 0.3 pct lower Daimler's supervisory board is set to hold a meeting at which the extension of Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche's contract is set to be discussed. Under discussion is extending his contract by five years until the end of 2018, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. Separately, Daimler also announced a partnership with Deutsche Telekom to promote new online services and web applications in motor vehicles. LUFTHANSA Indicated 1 pct lower The airline's chief executive Christoph Franz told FAZ in an interview said no decision had yet been taken over which aircraft the group would buy as part of a plan to invest in 108 new planes. He said that Lufthansa's passenger airline business in Germany was expected to make a loss in 2012. SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC The French industrial group predicted slow sales growth and stable margins in 2013 as it reported a 10 percent rise in 2012 underlying profits despite a weaker China and tough conditions in Europe. TECHNIP The French oil services group predicted revenue and profit would rise this year after reporting forecast-beating 2012 sales on Thursday, escaping the difficulties experienced by its bigger Italian rival Saipem. ATOS The company forecast an improvement in its operating margin and slight revenue growth this year after posting a 37 percent rise in 2012 operating profit. BNP PARIBAS, AGEAS Belgian prosecutors have concluded that seven former directors of Fortis should face trial for allegedly misleading investors during the Belgian-Dutch bank's purchase of part of Dutch lender ABN AMRO and before its 2008 collapse. A dossier has been passed to a panel of judges who will determine whether to order a trial, Brussels prosecutors said on Wednesday. They did not name the former Fortis directors. CAPGEMINI The French IT services group predicted organic revenue and operating margin would edge higher this year thanks to a better geographic sales mix and clients' appetite for cost-cutting services. BANKINTER Spanish bank Bankinter plans to list 49 percent of its insurance arm, Linea Directa, within the next two or three years, Expansion reported, citing unnamed market sources. DIA Spain's deep recession helped profits at discount supermarket chain Dia rise by over 55 percent in 2012 from a year earlier as adjusted core earnings beat Reuters forecasts. ABERTIS, REE, IBERDROLA The Spanish government held a meeting with the Bolivian ambassador on Wednesday to express its displeasure with Bolivia's seizure of assets belonging to Spanish companies, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.