Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to dip after soft Chinese data
PARIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen edging lower on Thursday, mirroring losses in Asia after softer-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data fuelled concerns over the pace of growth in the world's second-biggest economy. The flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.6 in January, from December's 50.5, suggesting that activity in China's factory sector contracted for the first time in six months. At 0723 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, UK's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were down 0.1-0.2 percent. In Europe, investors awaited PMIs data for France, Germany and the euro zone on Thursday, which should shed light on the pace of recovery in the region. "(The manufacturing and services PMI numbers for France) are both expected to show continued contraction in economic activity, though the numbers are expected to improve slightly from the previous readings," Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, wrote in a note. "Unfortunately they will do nothing to alter the growing perception that France is becoming the sick man of Europe, with manufacturing expected to come in at 47.5 and services PMI to come in at 48.1." On the earnings front, Spanish banks will be in the spotlight after Banco Sabadell said its full-year net profit tripled from a year earlier, beating analyst expectations. The airlines sector will also be in focus after British low-cost firm easyJet said first-half seasonal losses would be higher this year than last year, as it reported a 7.7 percent rise in quarterly revenues. European shares inched higher on Wednesday, led by robust results from Dutch technology firm ASML, keeping the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index hovering around a 5-year high hit recently. "Indexes are stuck in a tight range, and the selling pressure is slightly rising on the short term around the indexes' recent peaks," Aurel BGC chartist Gerard Sagnier said. "But it should be seen as a pause before the strong rally resumes again." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0726 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,844.86 0.06 % 1.06 NIKKEI 15,695.89 -0.79 % -125.07 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 454.19 -1.24 % -5.69 EUR/USD 1.3547 0.01 % 0.0001 USD/JPY 104.27 -0.21 % -0.2200 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.849 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.752 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,236.90 0.07 % $0.84 US CRUDE $96.57 -0.17 % -0.16 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares worn down by China worries > US STOCKS-Wall St flat on earnings; IBM pressures Dow > Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes down 0.79 pct > FOREX-Canadian dlr skids to 4 1/2 year low, China PMI hits Aussie > PRECIOUS-Gold falls to 2-week low; Chinese demand worries grow > METALS-London copper slips after weak China factory activity data > Brent slips toward $108, weak China data stokes demand worries COMPANY NEWS: BANCO SABADELL The lender said its full-year net profit tripled from a year earlier, beating analyst expectations. EASYJET The airlines sector will also be in the spotlight after British low-cost firm said first-half seasonal losses would be higher this year than last year, as it reported a 7.7 percent rise in quarterly revenues. INTESA SANPAOLO, BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA Italian banks, especially the bigger ones, will be able to cope "serenely" with upcoming European Central Bank stress tests, Intesa Sanpaolo's supervisory board president said on Wednesday. Giovanni Bazoli also said he was convinced a planned 3 billion euro capital hike at Banca Monte dei Paschi would proceed to an "adequate solution". UNIPOLSAI, ALLIANZ Unipolsai's proposed sale of some of its business to Allianz should satisfy Italy's competition authority's demands that it dispose of certain assets, the Italian insurance company's president said on Wednesday. UBS, CREDIT SUISSE, RBS UBS, Credit Suisse Group AG, and Royal Bank of Scotland are being investigated by EU antitrust regulators for suspected rigging of interest rates linked to the Swiss franc, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported that talks between Credit Suisse and U.S. authorities on settling allegations the bank helped Americans evade taxes have intensified, and a settlement of more than $800 million could be struck in the first half of the year. FIAT Chrysler Group filed to withdraw its IPO plans, after agreeing to sell to Fiat North America, according to an SEC filing on Wednesday. TUI Chilean shipper Vapores said on Wednesday it signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to take a 30 percent stake in Germany's Hapag-Lloyd HPLG.UL, which is 22 percent owned by TUI. CELESIO Newspaper Boersen-Zeitung cited financial sources as saying that Celesio's majority shareholder Haniel is in talks to buy the Celesio stake held by hedge fund Elliott as part of a fresh attempt to then sell the company to suitor McKesson. LEG IMMOBILIEN Goldman Sachs said it intends to place as much as 15.2 million shares or 28.65 percent in real estate group LEG via an accelerated bookbuilding with institutional investors. ARKEMA The company on Thursday said it had agreed to set up a joint-venture with Jurong Chemical, China's leader in acrylic acid. LONZA Swiss specialty chemicals and life sciences group Lonza said on Thursday it expects core earnings to grow 10 percent this year as it reported fourth-quarter profit that missed expectations. ALMIRALL Goldman Sachs said on Wednesday it will place 5 percent of Spanish drug maker Almirall, currently held by Grupo Plafin, through an accelerated book building process. BANCA CARIGE Banca Carige said on Wednesday market watchdog Consob was contesting the bank's financial statements for 2012 and the first half of 2013 because of accounting irregularities.