European Factors to Watch - Shares to rise on central bank reassurances
LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen opening higher on Thursday as reassurances about continued monetary support from central banks underpinned sentiment and whetted appetite for risk assets. Futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were up 0.4-0.5 percent at 0720 GMT. Asian shares, copper and oil prices all rose after the U.S. Federal Reserve's chairman Ben Bernanke again defended the Fed's asset purchases programme and downplayed signs of internal divisions. The European Central Bank's President Mario Draghi weighed in by saying the ECB is not about to remove the crisis measures it deployed to help the ailing euro zone economy. "With the implicit central bank backstop clearly communicated, the bullish overnight sentiment is set to continue on the European open," Jonathan Sudaria, a dealer at Capital Spreads, said in a trading note. Support from central banks has been the key driver behind a 34 percent rally in the Euro STOXX 50 index between June 2012 and the end of January, when the index started retreating from 18-month highs on nerves about Italy's political situation and underwhelming corporate earnings. The Euro STOXX 50 rose 1.6 percent to 2,611.89 points on Wednesday, helped by better-than-expected U.S. economic data and a well-bid auction of Italian bonds, a sign investors remained confident about the country's public finances. The euro zone blue-chip index recovered roughly half of the slump seen on Tuesday, when the market reacted to indecisive election results in debt laden-Italy, where no single party won enough seats to form a government. "Italy is only one piece of the broader correction that we've seen going on," William Beverley, head of macroeconomic research at wealth management firm Iveagh. "We are in the middle of a situation of overboughtness and there is still potential for a little bit more correction, perhaps up to 5 percent in global markets in a worst case scenario." Iveagh had positioned for a market pullback at the end of January, when technical, sentiment and fund flows indicators pointed to market overheating, and increased their allocations in cash and U.S. Treasuries, two traditional risk hedges. It also bought options to sell the Euro STOXX 50 at 2,625, financed by selling options to sell the index at 2,450, a strategy known as put spread. Lacklustre earnings and outlook statements confirmed a difficult picture for the European economy and have done little to cheer up investors. Shares in Germany's Deutsche Telekom were indicated down 0.4 percent as the group reported a fractionally lower-than-expected operating profit, citing headwinds in the German mobile market and the rest of Europe. Bayer was seen down 1 percent at the open as the drugmaker gave a 2013 underlying earnings outlook that was slightly below analyst forecasts. Dutch supermarket operator Ahold provided a more upbeat note as it increased its dividend and pledged to buy back 500 million euro ($655.5 million) of shares after its fourth-quarter results came in just above expectations. With slightly more than half of all full-year results now out, 39 percent of STOXX 600 Europe companies that have reported figures so far missed consensus estimates, resulting in 2013 forecasts being cut by 1.7 percent in the past 30 days, Starmine data showed. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0721 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,515.99 1.27 % 19.05 NIKKEI 11,559.36 2.71 % 305.39 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 555.29 1.05 % 5.76 EUR/USD 1.3138 0 % 0.0000 USD/JPY 92.38 0.16 % 0.1500 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.893 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.451 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,601.25 0.25 % $4.04 US CRUDE $92.60 -0.17 % -0.16 > Risk assets rise on Fed stimulus vow, Italy debt sale > Wall St gains on Bernanke comments, S&P above 1,500 > Nikkei rises as exporters gain on U.S. data, Italy debt sale > Treasuries slip as equity rally lures investors > Euro saved by smooth Italy debt sale, yen resumes descent > Gold heads for longest run of monthly drops in 16 years > Copper climbs as Fed reassures on strong stimulus > Brent rebounds to above $112 on Bernanke, Italy debt sale COMPANY NEWS DEUTSCHE TELEKOM'S The group's operating profit dropped 13 percent in the fourth quarter as the company faced head-winds in its German mobile market and the rest of Europe. BAYER Germany's largest drugmaker gave a 2013 underlying earnings outlook that was slightly below analyst expectations amid fresh competition for one of its most promising new drugs. AHOLD The Dutch supermarket operator increased its dividend and pledged to buy back 500 million euro ($655.5 million) of shares after its fourth-quarter results came in just above expectations. INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES GROUP The owner of British Airways and Spain's Iberia, swung to a full-year operating loss, hit by its underperforming Spanish unit and higher fuel costs. ENI, SAIPEM U.S. activist investor Knight Vinke has sent a letter to Eni asking for an immediate separation of its oilfield services unit Saipem, several newspapers reported on Thursday. FINMECCANICA Italian public prosecutors questioned former Finmeccancia head Giuseppe Orsi for a second time on Wednesday in a probe into alleged corruption in an Indian helicopter tender, legal sources said. During the questioning, Orsi re-affirmed that the Indian tender did not violate any rules. The sources said Orsi's lawyer will present a request on Thursday to release the former executive from jail. BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI The Italian treasury is working to meet a March 1 deadline for granting a 3.9 billion euro state bailout to Monte dei Paschi, the country's third-biggest lender, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. PRYSMIAN The world's largest cables maker said on Wednesday its 2012 adjusted net profit rose 22.1 percent to 282 million euros because of good performance at its energy cables business.