Europe Factors to Watch-Shares to pause, Crimea still in focus
LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen edging lower on Tuesday after strong gains in the previous session, with the market awaiting fresh cues following the initial relief that the crisis in Ukraine had not deteriorated.
The relatively peaceful passing of a referendum over the status of Crimea, which the West denounced as illegal, helped to buoy global equity markets on Monday. Gains were extended after the United States and Europe revealed sanctions that traders described as "modest", with the measures not seen as escalating the crisis in the short term.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 1 percent higher at 1,297.45 points on Monday, rising for only the second time in seven sessions and halting a three-week slide.
Futures on European indexes turned slightly negative, however, after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was moving forward with plans for Crimea's accession into Russia in a move that could provoke a sterner rebuke from the West.
"It's too early in my mind to be fully unwinding political hedges," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG, said in a note.
"We should hear more from Vladimir Putin today and this could be key for sentiment in today's session; however what's important is that he still doesn't recognise Ukraine as having a legitimate government, while he also feels he has the right to protect the Russian ethnic population in the east of Ukraine."
At 0727 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC were between 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent lower.
Also in focus could be the German ZEW sentiment indicator, as investors continue to fret over signs of deflation in the euro zone, hoping that weaker data could prompt some stimulus measures from the European Central Bank.
Euro zone annual inflation dropped back in February to the level that triggered a surprise cut in interest rates in November, revised data showed on Monday, underlining deflation risks in the bloc.
Consensus for the economic sentiment indicator is at 53, while the current conditions metric is expected to come in at 52.
"A renewed drop (in the ZEW) would cast a shadow of doubt over the German and the European growth outlook, and that would play into the hands of those that are dovish around the ECB," Ioan Smith, director at KCG, said.
Across the pond, the U.S. Federal Reserve will be another central bank in the spotlight as its open markets committee begins a two-day policy meeting.
Europe bourses in 2014:
Asset performance in 2014:------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares rise as Crimea tensions ease > Wall St climbs as Ukraine worries ease, data improves > Nikkei rebounds from 6-wk low, helped by calm in Ukraine > TREASURIES-Prices dip as Crimea tensions ease > FOREX-Yen nurses losses, euro edges up as Ukraine anxiety ebbs > PRECIOUS-U.S. gold down 1 pct; cautious ahead of Fed meet > METALS-London copper hits one-week high on short-covering > Brent holds above $106 on bargain-hunting after overnight drop
The supermarket chain said sales at stores open over a year fell 3.1 percent, excluding fuel, in the 10 weeks to March 15, compared with analysts' forecasts in a range of down 2-3 percent. The group said it was confident it would outperform peers in the year ahead.
The French conglomerate, having lost out in a takeover battle for Vivendi's telecoms business SFR, risks becoming prey rather than predator in a domestic mobile market with scope for more consolidation.
France's No. 2 listed bank will reduce the number of deputy chief executive officers to two after Jean-François Sammarcelli, head of the French retail business, retires in end-2014.
Separately, the bank said it would ask shareholders for permission to pay some staff bonuses worth up to double their salaries, in accordance with the European Union cap on bonuses.
The bank will try to take the sting out of a heated debate over bankers' bonuses on Tuesday by pointing to a drop in the value of shares given to its top executives even as the lender's Chief Executive Antony Jenkins is awarded a 4 million pound ($6.66 million) payout, the Financial Times reported.
European car sales rose 7.6 percent in February, as a gradual economic recovery in Portugal, Spain and Italy boosted demand for mass market brands, industry data showed on Tuesday.
Separately, annual results due from Porsche Automobil Holding SE , the investment company that holds a majority stake in the ordinary share capital of Volkswagen.
Scania's independent board committee on Tuesday recommended shareholders to reject the bid by Volkswagen for the outstanding shares in the truck maker. The committee said the offer did not reflect the long-term prospects of Scania.
The company in a separate business update added that it expects its operating margins to improve over the coming years.
AXA, BNP PARIBAS
French insurer AXA and French lender BNP Paribas said on Monday they were putting an end to a pact signed in 2005 that saw the financial institutions own cross-holdings of each others' shares.
Separately, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that AXA Equitable would pay the Department of Financial Services a $20 million fine over insurance violations for retirement products.