UPDATE 1-European Factors to Watch-Shares set to pause at 5 year highs
LONDON Dec 30 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen steadying on Monday after two weeks of strong gains that have pulled markets to five-year highs, with a risk that Italian lender Monte Paschi could be nationalised in focus in what could otherwise be a quiet session.
At 0720 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC were flat to 0.2 percent higher.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended up 1.1 percent at 1,314.29 points on Friday, its highest closing level since mid-2008.
The benchmark index, which has surged 5.3 percent since Dec. 17, is on track to post a gain of 16 percent for 2013, with just two sessions left in the year.
The euro zone's blue chip EuroSTOXX 50 has rallied 6.6 percent over the last two weeks, and also closed at a five year high. Both indexes have been boosted following the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to slow its stimulus programme, with investors taking solace in the promise of lower interest rates for longer and an economy that seems to be strengthening.
Eyes will be on U.S. data points such as the midwest and Dallas Fed manufacturing surveys and pending homes data to reiterate this stronger growth picture in what is a quiet day on the European data front.
Italian blue chips and the euro zone banking sector will be in focus after a delay to vital fundraising at Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena over the weekend increased the risk that Italy's third-biggest bank would have to be nationalised.
"European markets look set to pull back modestly on open, with some traders pointing to the fact we could be seeing Monte Paschi nationalised," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, wrote in a trading note.
Volumes could be thin this week, with some major European markets closed on Wednesday and open for only half a day on Tuesday following on from last week's holiday-curtailed trading activity.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- > Japan shares seek to end bumper year on high note > US STOCKS-Wall St ends mostly flat, but scores weekly gains > Nikkei edges higher, set for best year since 1972 > TREASURIES-U.S. 10-year yield hits 2-year high > FOREX-Yen slides to 5-yr low, euro near 2-yr high vs dlr > PRECIOUS-Gold slips, rising equities curb investors' interest > Copper dips from 4-month top, demand hopes underpin prices > Brent edges up amid unrest in South Sudan, Libya
MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA
The troubled lender was forced to delay a vital 3 billion euro ($4 billion) share sale to raise capital until mid-2014 because of shareholder opposition, plunging its turnaround plan into uncertainty.
Chairman Alessandro Profumo said on Saturday he would decide whether to step down in January.
LLOYDS : The British government could sell off all of its 18.4 billion pound ($30.35 billion) stake in Lloyds in 2014, the Daily Telegraph reported, citing unnamed sources.
The luxury-car maker expects sales of the new i3 electric hatchback to keep growing as demand for the model continues to exceed targets six weeks after the i3 hit dealerships, Die Welt reported on Saturday, citing CFO Friedrich Eichiner.
The lender aims to expand dealings with small businesses and freelancers through 2016, Die Welt reported on Saturday, citing Commerzbank's retail banking chief Martin Zielke.
VOLKSWAGEN, MAN SE, RHEINMETALL
The CEO of Europe's largest carmaker, Martin Winterkorn, is enraged by a dispute between VW's truck-making divisions MAN SE and Scania that could cost MAN's joint venture with defense company Rheinmetall a 2.2 billion-euro ($3.03 billion) military contract, Der Spiegel reported on Sunday. VW and MAN declined to comment.
The French drugmaker said U.S. regulators refused to give it the green light to launch its Lemtrada multiple sclerosis treatment in the world's biggest drug market and said it planned to appeal the decision.
A fire has destroyed one workshop and damaged another at Swatch Group's watch mechanism subsidiary, the Swiss firm that has a near monopoly on the supply of mechanisms to other watchmakers said.
Chinese carrier Zhejiang Loong Airlines said on Sunday it had firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A320 aircraft.