UPDATE 1-European Factors to Watch-Stocks set for subdued start, fretting over earnings

Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:29am EST

LONDON Jan 24 (Reuters) - European stocks were set for a subdued opening on Friday, pegged back by overnight losses in Asia and the United States, and heading for their biggest weekly loss since mid-December on concerns about disappointing company earnings.

Weaker-than-expected sales from Starbucks and an earnings miss from McDonald's overnight underscored the still fragile health of the global economy and consumers.

In Europe, the reporting season will only get in full swing next week, here too there have been some signs of weakness.

Finnish pulp and paper company Stora Enso said it plans to shut down a paper-making machine due to weak demand for magazines.

Dutch cable group Ziggo NV, meanwhile, posted broadly in-line quarterly numbers but said core earnings will not grow in 2014.

STOXX Europe 600 companies are on average seen missing consensus quarterly earnings forecasts by 2.4 percent according to Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimates, which focus on the up-to-date predictions of the historically most accurate analysts.

That is bad news for investors, given the broadly-held view that European equity valuations are unlikely to rise much further and earning must thus grow if stock prices are to continue to grind higher.

Technical analysts say the major indexes - now in overbought territory and facing tough resistance levels - could be ripe for a correction of as much as 10 percent in coming weeks. That in turn would leave the market in a much healthier shape to resume the long-term up trend, they say.

"From a short term perspective, the market is clearly overbought - that's correct for EuroSTOXX 50, that's correct for the DAX," said Sophia Wurm, technical analyst at Commerzbank.

"I could imagine a price decline to say 2,900 or 3,000 (on EuroSTOXX 50), that's the next support area ... But in the medium term we have a price target of 3,300 for this year."

At 0724 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC were all up around 0.1 percent.

That should lead to a subdued showing on the broad FTSEurofirst 300, which is already down 0.9 percent since the start of this week - putting it on track for its biggest weekly loss since mid-December. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares sag on Chinese growth anxiety > US STOCKS-Wall St falls as China data trigger selloff in risky assets > Nikkei drops to 1-month low as China PMI impact drags > TREASURIES-U.S. bonds rally on weak stocks, Chinese data > Yen, Swiss franc and euro sought in risk-asset rout, EM savaged > PRECIOUS-Gold extends winning streak to 5th week on softer equities > METALS-Copper eyes biggest weekly loss in more than two months > Brent holds above $107, set for biggest gain in five weeks

COMPANY NEWS:

BANKS

Germany and France have attacked European Union plans to curb banks' ability to take market bets with their own money, warning that this could jeopardise a delicate economic recovery, a paper seen by Reuters showed.

TELEFONICA

Spain's Telefonica is renegotiating some 5 billion euros of debt with banks in a move to lift its credit ratings and prepare for possible acquisitions such as in Brazil, Expansion reported, citing unnamed financial sources.

NOVARTIS

Novartis said it would ask the European health regulator to look at its heart failure drug serelaxin again after the body took an unfavourable position on it Friday.

The Swiss drugmaker also said its omalizumab treatment was backed by a committee of the European regulator for patients with a severe form of hives.

SYNGENTA

Two leading U.S. grain groups have asked Syngenta, the world's largest crop chemicals company, to suspend the commercial use in the United States of two genetically modified (GM) strains of corn not currently approved in China.

MICHELIN, CONTINENTAL

The European car and light truck tyre market rose 8 percent in December as demand picked up towards the end of the year, Michelin said.

RENAULT

The French carmaker aims to get back into Iran as soon as sanctions are lifted, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said, describing it as "a potentially great market".

Separately, Nissan Motor Co and Renault will combine their manufacturing and research functions in a move that will save the alliance more than 400 billion yen ($3.86 billion) a year, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.

DEXIA

A top Italian court has ruled in favour of the Franco-Belgian lender in a dispute over an interest rate swap deal with an Italian province, removing one hurdle to the bailed out lender's wind-down plan.

MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA

Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said on Thursday he saw "zero" chance of the bank being nationalised.

ENI

Italy's government is studying the possibility of reducing its stake in the energy group to below 30 percent, but not immediately, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said on Thursday.

SAIPEM

The Italian oil service company has bid for the job of scrapping the hulk of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, which capsized off the Tuscany coast more than two years ago, a source close to the matter said on Thursday.