Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to pause; earnings flurry in focus
PARIS, April 25 (Reuters) - European stocks are seen slightly lower on Thursday, taking a breather following strong gains made in the past two sessions, with investors scanning through corporate results to see the impact of the region's economic downturn. At 0636 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for UK's FTSE 100, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1-0.2 percent. AstraZeneca's sales fell by a bigger-than-expected 13 percent in the first quarter, while Banco de Sabadell, Spain's fifth-biggest bank, posted forecast-beating profit, boosted by trading gains and a drop in operating expenses. Out of the 22 percent of the STOXX 600 companies that have posted quarterly earnings so far, about 53 percent have met or beaten profit expectations, contrasting with results from the United States where nearly three quarters of S&P 500 companies have met or beaten forecasts so far in the earnings season, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. The telecom sector will be in the spotlight again after sources said Verizon Communications Inc has hired advisers to prepare a possible $100 billion bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from joint venture partner Vodafone Group Plc, while a media report said BT has begun looking for a mobile phone partner. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index has surged 4.9 percent so far this week, on track to record its biggest weekly gain since November, boosted in part by rising expectations of an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank following weaker-than-expected German macro data. "Indexes are clearly back into a positive momentum, and are heading for the year's highs. But we need to break above these levels for the rally to continue towards 2011 highs," Aurel BGC chartist Gerard Sagnier said. "Meanwhile, every dip will be an opportunity to get in." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0635 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,578.79 0 % 0.01 NIKKEI 13,926.08 0.6 % 82.62 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 545.14 0.79 % 4.29 EUR/USD 1.3035 0.15 % 0.0020 USD/JPY 99.12 -0.35 % -0.3500 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.708 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.248 -- 0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,445.90 1.06 % $15.10 US CRUDE $91.81 0.42 % 0.38 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares up, weak durable orders stall dollar > US STOCKS-Wall St ends mostly flat, Procter, AT&T tumble > Nikkei inches up to near 5-yr highs on weak yen; Canon, Nintendo sag > FOREX-Euro bounces back from Ifo-inspired lows on shortcovering > PRECIOUS-Gold rises to 1-week high, cenbank purchases aid > METALS-Copper at 1-week high as shorts cover on policy-easing hopes > Brent climbs above $102, hits 10-day peak on US demand hopes COMPANY NEWS: ASTRAZENECA AstraZeneca's sales fell by a bigger-than-expected 13 percent in the first quarter as patent expiries sent revenue from key medicines skidding lower, underscoring the turnaround challenge facing Britain's second biggest drugmaker. CAIXABANK Spain's biggest domestic lender on Thursday said its net profit jumped by 700 percent to 335 million euros ($435 million), boosted by purchases of smaller banks Banca Civica and Banco de Valencia which had a positive accounting impact. BANCO SANTANDER The euro zone's biggest on Thursday posted a 25.9 percent drop in net profit from a year ago to 1.205 billion euros ($1.6 billion), missing analyst forecasts in a Reuters poll. VODAFONE Verizon Communications Inc has hired advisers to prepare a possible $100 billion cash and stock bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from joint venture partner Vodafone Group, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. BT The telecoms company has begun looking for a mobile phone partner, a potential sign that it could reunite with O2, the Financial Times reports. RENAULT The French carmaker reported an 11.8 percent drop in first-quarter revenue on Wednesday and predicted the European market would contract 5 percent this year, a downward revision of its previous forecast. ENI Italian oil and gas giant Eni stuck to its growth forecast for the year after production fell almost 5 percent in the first quarter due to disruptions in Libya and Nigeria. TECHNIP The French oil services group reaffirmed its full-year earnings growth targets on Thursday after it posted a 3.6 percent rise in first-quarter net income. MONTE PASCHI Monte dei Paschi had to put up more than 2.8 billion euros ($3.65 billion) by way of collateral for two loss-making derivatives trades at the centre of an investigation of alleged fraud at Italy's third-biggest lender. DEUTSCHE BANK A judge has denied Deutsche Bank's bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles accusing it of letting hundreds of foreclosed properties fall into disrepair and illegally evicting low-income tenants, a representative for the city's attorney said on Wednesday. ESSILOR The world's largest maker of corrective eye lenses confirmed its target for like-for-like sales growth including bolt-on acquisitions of more than 7 percent this year and a high level of profitability. ELECTROLUX The home appliances maker reported a fall in core operating profit for the first quarter that was bigger than expected and said conditions in the crisis-hit European market would remain tough. VIVENDI The French group has received two binding offers from Gulf companies for a 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom IAM.CS, the first tangible sign of progress in the French media and telecom conglomerate's efforts to remake itself. VOLVO The world number two truck maker posted a surprise rise in orders intake on Thursday amid signs key markets were pulling out of a deep slump that pushed its earnings to a deeper-than-expected fall in the first quarter. KRONES The German bottling machine maker said on Wednesday it would place 1.4 million of its treasury shares, or about 4.5 percent, of its capital stock. LONZA The specialty chemicals and life sciences group on Thursday confirmed its earnings target for 2013 and said it was proceeding with restructuring programme aimed at boosting profitability. OUTOKUMPU Finnish stainless steelmaker said it plans to cut up to 2,500 jobs globally, as the company struggles with weaker prices. PERNOD RICARD French spirits maker posted weaker-than- expected third-quarter sales on Thursday as growth slowed in its key Chinese market, and it stuck with a target for slower full-year profit growth. SSAB The Swedish specialty steel maker on Thursday posted a first-quarter operating loss in line with expectations and said it expected some recovery in the second quarter led by the U.S. and Latin America.