Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to dip; Cyprus in focus
PARIS, March 21 (Reuters) - European stocks are set to dip on Thursday as Cyprus's debt crisis keeps investors on edge, overshadowing a pick-up in Chinese factory activity and a pledge by the U.S. Federal Reserve to maintain its stimulus programme. Spain will also be in the spotlight as the country is set to sell up to 4 billion euros in bonds on Thursday, with investors focusing on the yields to see if this week's revival of fears over the euro zone is affecting Spain's borrowing costs. Manufacturing data for the euro zone, due at 0858 GMT, will be scrutinised. Improving global macroeconomic momentum has recently helped European stock indexes hit multi-year highs, although signs of a positive reversal in the euro zone economy has yet to materialise. At 0723 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX for France's CAC and for UK's FTSE 100 <FFIc1 were down 0.1-0.3 percent. Cyprus's crisis was still at the forefront of investors' minds on Thursday, with the island's government scrambling to avert a financial meltdown and ordering banks to stay shut until next week, after the debt-stricken country rejected the terms of a European Union bailout. Crisis talks among the political leaders in Nicosia were set to resume on Thursday morning to discuss a new bailout plan which could involve Russia. Cyprus's woes, which has revived fears of contagion to other highly indebted countries in the euro zone, eclipsed strong macro data from China. Figures published on Thursday showed a pick-up in growth in the country's vast manufacturing sector, signalling solid albeit not spectacular first-quarter growth in the world's second-largest economy. Sentiment was also helped by a statement from the Fed, which said it would stick to its $85 billion monthly bond-buying stimulus, citing still high unemployment levels, although the bank added it would take into account the possible risks of its policies. Despite a timid rebound on Wednesday, the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index is still down 1.4 percent from a peak hit last Friday. However, Kita First chartist Hugues Naka said the downside potential for the index is limited. "The index's positive trendline started in mid-2012 is still intact and will limit any pull-back until the index manages to close above 2,715 points and then moves towards the 2,800 zone," he said. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0720 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,558.71 0.67 % 10.37 NIKKEI 12,635.69 1.34 % 167.46 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 536.70 0.04 % 0.24 EUR/USD 1.294 0.06 % 0.0008 USD/JPY 95.76 -0.26 % -0.2500 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.956 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.395 -- 0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,607.60 0.11 % $1.71 US CRUDE $93.13 -0.4 % -0.37 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares supported by Fed, China data > US STOCKS-Wall St ends higher as Fed keeps stimulus in place > Nikkei hits 4-1/2 year high, exporters rise on BOJ easing hopes > FOREX-Yen firmer vs dollar, awaits new BOJ governor's remarks > PRECIOUS-Gold's upward momentum cools as Cyprus fear ebbs > METALS-London copper rallies on China data, Fed reassurance > Brent holds steady above $108 as China offsets Cyprus worries COMPANY NEWS: HERMES The French luxury group said on Thursday that its operating profit rose 26.4 percent in 2012 and operating margin reached its highest level since the company listed in 1993. HENNES & MAURITZ The world's second-biggest fashion retailer posted on Thursday a slightly bigger drop than expected in fiscal first-quarter pretax earnings and said it would open more stores this year than previously planned. ASTRAZENECA The group's new chief executive announced another 2,300 job cuts in sales and administration on Thursday as he set out his stall for returning the drugmaker to growth. CONTINENTAL Schaeffler, which holds a stake of around 50 percent in Continental, saw revenue rise by 4 percent to more than 11 billion euros ($14.25 billion) in 2012, a person familiar with the figures said on Wednesday. ABERTIS Spanish infrastructure firm Abertis is expecting non-binding offers for its airports business before the end of March, in a deal worth about 900 million euros ($1.17 billion), two sources familiar with the process said on Wednesday. ERICSSON Airvana Network Solutions Inc, a Massachusetts broadband network company, has won a preliminary injunction against Ericsson in a trade-secrets lawsuit that seeks more than $330 million from the Swedish telecommunications network equipment maker. EADS Delta Air Lines Inc DAL.N is in talks to purchase small and wide-body jets from EADS's Airbus and Boeing BA.N in deals potentially worth about $6 billion at list prices, two people familiar with the matter said. GEMALTO The smart card maker said it had made an application for a dual listing on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam effective April 3, adding that it would change the "market of reference" for the shares to Amsterdam from Paris. FCC, REALIA Spanish building group FCC aims to refinance debt at its Realia property arm ahead of its planned sale, the first step in the group's new strategy to cut costs and focus on its core infrastructure and environmental businesses. VIVENDI Vivendi is considering splitting off its biggest unit, French mobile telecoms operator SFR, and putting a chunk of the group's debt into the subsidiary, Bloomberg said on its news website on Wednesday. A company spokesman declined to comment on the report. BANCA CARIGE Italian regional lender Banca Carige wants to sell insurance businesses and property to avoid having to raise money from shareholders to plug an 800 million euro ($1.03 billion) hole in its capital base. PARMALAT The Italian dairy group at the centre of a legal dispute over its $900 million acquisition of a U.S. sister company last year expects core profits and sales to rise about 5 percent in 2013 as it focuses on new products and foreign markets. ENI Italy's oil major is open to talks with Gazprom about a possible partnership in Mozambique but is not aware of any interest from the Russian state gas monopoly in buying a stake in its gas assets there. VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT French water and waste firm Veolia Environnement has started talks with unions about 1,500 jobs in its French water business, the company said on Wednesday. ROCHE The firm said a change in how it accounts for employee benefits will reduce 2012 net financial income by 164 million Swiss francs. The on-going impact for 2013 and beyond is expected to be of a similar magnitude. There was no impact on Roche's operating income or net assets from this change. NOVARTIS The group aid new data shows its drug Gilenya significantly reduces the rate of brain volume loss across three large Phase III studies.
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