Europe Factors to Watch-Shares seen steady in shortened session
PARIS, Dec 31 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen opening steady on Tuesday in a shortened session before the New Year break, with pan-European indexes set to post their biggest annual gains since 2009. At 0606 GMT, futures for UK's FTSE 100 were up 0.03 percent and for France's CAC were up 0.34 percent. A number of major European markets including Germany, Italy and Switzerland will be closed on Tuesday for the New Year holiday, while bourses in London, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon will close around midday. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares is set to post a gain of around 16 percent for 2013, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index will report a rise of around 18 percent. European shares, which have enjoyed brisk investment inflows in the second half of this year, have rallied as investor worries over Spain and Italy abated, Europe's macroeconomic indicators improved and the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve provided massive liquidity. Earlier this month, the Fed announced that it would slightly trim its unprecedented monetary easing programme, but investors took heart in stronger U.S. economic data and a commitment from the Fed to keep interest rates low for longer. Germany's DAX, which closed for the year at midday on Monday, outperformed other major European stock markets in 2013 in terms of percentage returns, while the Dublin and Athens bourses both surged for a second consecutive year. The DAX rose by around 26 percent, and was only beaten by smaller, less liquid stock exchanges such as Dublin's Irish Stock Exchange index which has risen roughly 34 percent, or the Athens General Share Index, which is up by around 28 percent. Among European sectors, the STOXX auto sector, home of companies such as Volkswagen and Renault, has been the best sector in 2013, up 38 percent. Telecoms and media also performed well, both up about 33 percent on the year, boosted by a wave of M&A deals. Bucking the trend, the basic resources sector, including mining groups Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, took a beating during the year, tumbling 14 percent as metal prices fell, including gold and copper. Gold prices plummeted in 2013, with the precious metal heading for its biggest annual decline since 1981 as investors shifted money to equities. A drop in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) holdings shows investors lost faith in bullion as a hedge against inflation and an alternative investment after the Fed unveiled plans to trim its big monthly bond purchases.------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0709 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,841.07 -0.02 % -0.33 EUR/USD 1.3788 -0.11 % -0.0015 USD/JPY 104.94 -0.2 % -0.2100 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.972 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.941 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,199.45 0.29 % $3.45 US CRUDE $99.19 -0.1 % -0.10 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks say sayonara to a successful 2013 > US STOCKS-Wall St closes mostly flat, but Dow hits record > FOREX-Dollar on track for best annual gain vs yen in 34 years > PRECIOUS-Gold on track for biggest annual loss since 1981 > METALS-Copper rises to near 4-month peak > Brent to end 2013 flat as supply fears offset weak demand COMPANY NEWS: RIO TINTO, BHP BILLITON Iron ore miners were waiting for conditions to ease before assessing damage caused by a cyclone that ripped across northwest Australia on Tuesday, closing ports and threatening mining operations in the sparsely populated Pilbara region. ORANGE Orange is preparing its legal response to a report alleging the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) accessed customers' data transmitted by a submarine cable partly used by the French telecoms operator. GDF SUEZ Italian energy firm ERG will buy out from GDF Suez and Mitsui & Co the 49 percent stake it does not already own in Sicily's ISAB Energy gas-fired power plant and other assets for 149.4 million euros ($206.39 million), before selling the plant to Russia's Lukoil for 20 million euros.
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