European Factors to Watch-Shares seen edging higher, focus on miners

LONDON, March 28 Fri Mar 28, 2014 3:41am EDT

LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - European equities headed for a slightly higher open on Friday, with basic resources shares seen advancing on expectations that China's possible move to step up infrastructure spending could boost industrial metals demand.

Recent weaker-than-expected data, which has dimmed outlook for the world's second-largest economy, prompted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to say that Beijing was ready to support the cooling economy and would push ahead with infrastructure investment.

A pick up in infrastructure spending in China has the potential to lift prices of metals and help the European basic resources index, which has fallen more than 13 percent this year on concerns that authorities were set to let growth slow down in China, the world's largest metals consumer.

"The increased spending on infrastructure can boost basic resources shares in the short term. However it would demonstrate again that Chinese reforms are a process of one step forward and two steps backward," Koen De Leus, senior economist at KBC, in Brussels, said.

At 0733 GMT, futures for Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.1 to 0.3 percent higher, while futures for the Euro STOXX 50 were up 0.3 percent at 3,076 points.

Commerzbank said the Euro STOXX 50 futures recently provided a trading buy signal and given an improvement in overall technical conditions, investors should consider a sale of May puts at a strike price of 2,750 or 2,800.

In the cash market, the FTSEurofirst 300 of top European shares ended 0.2 percent higher at 1,322.22 points on Thursday. However, the index was on track to end the month in negative territory after recent sell-offs on growth concerns and geopolitical tension in Ukraine.

Investors will also keep an eye on inflation data out of the euro zone due on Friday and on Monday for hints about the European Central Bank's likely policy move. Analysts expect the inflation number to come in at 0.6 percent in March, against 0.7 percent in the previous month.

"A larger downside surprise to euro zone inflation, say to 0.5 percent year-on-year, could justify a rate cut as early as next week, although without a smoking gun the ECB might further delay its monetary response," Credit Agricole said in a note.

An overwhelming majority of economists polled by Reuters expect no imminent rate move by the central bank at the April 3 meeting. Only two of 72 economists predicted a rate cut, versus 26 of 78 who did before last month's meeting.

European bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pad95v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/rav46v ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > Euro soft as yields slip, China spending talk aids stocks > Wall St slips as banks, techs drag; S&P flat for 2014 > Nikkei choppy as fiscal year-end nears; Yahoo Japan tumbles > Yields lower as Treasury sells 7-yr notes to solid demand > Euro on defensive after dovish ECB talk, kiwi flies > Gold struggles near 6-week low; poised for second weekly loss > London copper set for biggest weekly gain this year > Brent holds below $108, heads for 1st weekly gain since late Feb

COMPANY NEWS

BMW, DAIMLER

BMW is set to make an announcement on Friday about building a new product. Last week Reuters reported BMW plans to build the X7, a large crossover vehicle with three rows of seats, in South Carolina.

Mercedes-Benz has the lowest recall rate for its vehicles and BMW was the quickest to commence a recall campaign, a long-term study of safety recalls in the United States showed.

ROCHE

Swiss drugmaker Roche said on Friday that European regulators have approved a new timesaving formulation of its blood cancer drug MabThera, which it hopes will help extend the medicine's shelf life.

DEUTSCHE BANK, COMMERZBANK

German banks would not favour including legal costs in upcoming stress tests on European lenders, the head of a German banking association said, after the U.S. Federal Reserve pointed out those risks in its health check of lenders.

TOTAL

The French oil company said refining margins in Europe had dropped to a four-year low in the fourth quarter of 2013, as depressed oil demand continued to bite.

Total is planning to team up with Lukoil on its shale oil projects in Russia as the country resorts to unconventional resources to replace falling production at ageing fields in Siberia, the Financial Times reports.

THEOLIA

The wind-energy company said it had sold its Seres Environnement unit, without giving further details.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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