European Factors to Watch-Shares to rise on Arcelor, U.S. optimism

LONDON Fri Feb 7, 2014 2:31am EST

LONDON Feb 7 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen edging up on Friday as heavyweight steelmaker ArcelorMittal unveiled upbeat forecasts and investors anticipated further encouraging economic data from the United States.

ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker and a company regarded as a broad gauge for the health of global manufacturing, forecast higher profits in the year ahead and flagged growth in European consumption after two years of decline. Traders expected shares in the firm to open sharply higher.

High strength steel maker SSAB also said it expected the hard-hit steel market in Europe had bottomed out, although it still recorded a bigger than expected fourth-quarter loss.

Futures for the broader Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.3 to 0.4 percent higher at 0726 GMT.

Initial claims for U.S. state unemployment benefits came in lower than expected on Thursday, raising expectations for Friday's non-farm payrolls report for January and helping the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 post its best daily gain since Dec. 19.

The index had fallen 6.6 percent in the previous two weeks on concerns the global economy, and especially emerging countries, may not be strong enough to withstand the ongoing reduction of U.S. monetary stimulus by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

While Thursday's data has no direct bearing on January's employment report, as it falls outside the survey period, it boosted the outlook for the world's largest economy.

"After what we saw yesterday we're going slightly long into the data and if the figures are good we expect a nice short squeeze," Markus Huber, senior trader at Peregrine & Black, said.

Non-farm payrolls are expected to have increased by 185,000 last month, according to a Reuters survey of economists. This would offer assurance that economic growth was not faltering.

Analysts at Societe Generale expect the U.S. S&P 500, a globally watched index that has an 80 percent average correlation to the STOXX Europe 600 , to move up by 0.6 percent in the first half-an-hour after the release if the bank's forecast for a 270,000 payroll reading materialises.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

> GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares gain on hopes for U.S. jobs growth > US STOCKS-Wall St rallies on labor market data, earnings > Nikkei jumps 2 pct on optimism ahead of U.S. jobs report > TREASURIES-Yields rise before payrolls > Dollar drifts lower with focus turning to U.S. jobs report > Gold rises as China returns; focus on U.S. jobs report > London copper eyes biggest weekly gain of year on growth hopes > Brent edges higher towards $108; eyes on U.S. jobs numbers

COMPANY NEWS

ARCELORMITTAL

The world's largest steelmaker forecast higher profits in the year ahead due to increased steel and iron ore shipments. Chief Executive Lakshmi Mittal said in a statement that the Luxembourg-based company was cautiously optimistic about its 2014 prospects.

SSAB

The high strength steel maker posted a bigger than expected fourth-quarter loss on Friday, its sixth straight quarter in the red, but said it expected the hard-hit steel market in Europe had bottomed out.

The operating loss was 282 million Swedish crowns ($43.42 million) and compared to a loss of 665 million in the same period a year ago and the average forecast for a loss of 154 million crowns in a Reuters poll.

ABB

Swiss industrial conglomerate ABB Ltd is seeking to divest several units whose sale could raise more than $1 billion in total proceeds, according to people familiar with the matter, joining a list of large companies looking to shed non-core businesses.

AIRFRANCE-KLM

Air France-KLM said on Friday that January passenger traffic rose 3.8 percent year-on-year while cargo traffic fell 0.8 percent.

TELE2

Swedish telecoms group Tele2 forecast flat earnings for 2014, less than expected by analysts, and scrapped its 2015 guidance as it posted fourth-quarter core earnings in line with forecasts.

NOKIAN RENKAAT

The Finnish winter tyre maker proposed a smaller-than-expected annual dividend after a fall in fourth-quarter operating profit due to weak car sales in Russia.

The company's fourth-quarter operating profit fell to 93 million euros ($126 million) from 112 million a year earlier, below an average forecast of 105 million euros in a Reuters poll.

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ELISA

The Finnish telecom operator reported a slight rise in quarterly profit as cost cuts helped to offset the impact of tough price competition.

Elisa's quarterly earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), excluding one-off items, rose to 134 million euros ($182 million) from 124 million a year earlier. That was in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll.

SACYR

The Panama Canal is ready to pull the plug on a Spanish-led consortium's contract to expand the major world shipping route unless the two sides reach a deal quickly amid a spat over massive cost overruns, its administrator said on Thursday.

AIRBUS

The planemaker is exploring fresh ways to improve sales of the world's largest passenger jet after receiving a potentially crucial signal of support from at least one of its engine makers, industry sources said.

GECINA

The French property group said its stakeholders Blackstone and Ivanhoe Cambridge had requested they be allowed to appoint board members to reflect their 22.98 percent interest in the firm.

ALSTOM

UK company Tidal Lagoon Power has applied to build the world's first plant that generates power from the ebb and flow of tides in a lagoon in south Wales. The company has spent three years developing the project with a consortium of engineering firms including Alstom.

NATIXIS

The chairman of BPCE, France's second-biggest retail bank and parent of Natixis, was put under judicial investigation to determine if his nomination to head the group in 2009 represented a conflict of interest, a legal source said.

APERAM

The Luxembourg-based stainless steel firm reported a stronger-than-expected performance in the last three months of 2013 and forecast an improvement in profits in the current quarter as it steps up on cost-cutting.

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