Europe Factors to Watch-Shares seen steadying near 2-week highs

Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:31am EST

LONDON Feb 17 (Reuters) - European equity index futures edged higher on Monday, which traders attributed to the region's markets tracking gains overnight in Asia, while a key regional equity index was set to steady near 2-week highs.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 futures contract was up by 0.2 percent at 0725 GMT, Germany's DAX futures also rose 0.2 percent while France's CAC futures edged up by 0.1 percent.

"It's just a follow-on from Asia and from the tail-end of last week. The markets are looking firm up here," said Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at London-based Central Markets Investment Management.

Italian shares will be in focus as centre-left leader Matteo Renzi was poised to become the country's new prime minister.

Milan's FTSE MIB equity index rose 1.6 percent on Friday as investors welcomed the likelihood of Renzi's appointment, and credit rating agency Moody's lifted its outlook on Italy on Friday to "stable" from "negative".

Friday's gains in Milan helped the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index to close up 0.5 percent at 1,332.30 points, marking its highest level in around two weeks.

The FTSEurofirst 300 has managed to recover from declines at the start of the year related to concerns over a slump in emerging markets economies, and is now up by 1.2 percent year-to-date.

Data on Monday showed that Japan's economy grew at a much slower pace than expected at the end of last year, but the country's Nikkei stock market still edged higher.

Trading volumes may be thinner than usual on Monday as U.S. markets will be shut due to the Presidents' Day public holiday.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks up, dollar dips as emerging market fears wane > US STOCKS-Wall St rises; indexes up for second straight week > Nikkei rebounds on short-covering; disappointing GDP caps gains > TREASURIES-Yields drift higher but uptrend fading on U.S. outlook > FOREX-Dollar hamstrung by data, slips vs yen after soft Japan GDP > PRECIOUS-Gold extends gains to 3-1/2 month high on US growth fears > METALS-London copper strikes 11-day high as dollar drops > Brent slips towards $109 on demand fears; cold spell supports

COMPANY NEWS:

AUSTRIAN POST :

Austrian Post plans to keep cutting jobs as a pick up in package deliveries fails to offset declining mail volume, Chief Executive Georg Poezl told the Kurier newspaper.

BANKIA :

Spain will probably begin the privatisation of bailed-out Bankia with the sale of a 5 to 10 percent stake to institutional investors, the bank's Chairman Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri said in an interview published on Sunday.

BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI :

The top investor in Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena has sold 236 million shares on the market, equivalent to 2 percent of Italy's No.3 bank.

BOUYGUES :

France's Bouygues said on Monday it would take a 1.4 billion euro ($1.92 billion) write-down on its investment in Alstom in its fourth-quarter financial statements.

H&M :

Swedish budget fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) said on Monday its sales rose 15 percent in January, in line with a forecast which the company provided in its fourth quarter report.

NOVARTIS :

Novartis said it will buy U.S.-based CoStim Pharmaceuticals Inc., a privately held biotechnology company focused on harnessing the immune system to eliminate immune-blocking signals from cancer, for an undisclosed price.

PEUGEOT :

The Peugeot family, the largest shareholder in PSA Peugeot Citroen, will meet on Monday to decide whether to give its blessing to two deals aimed at securing the French carmaker's future, a source close to the matter said.