European Factors to Watch-Flat start eyed as sales updates disappoint

LONDON, April 15 Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:34am EDT

LONDON, April 15 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen opening steady on Tuesday as the threat of costly sanctions against Russia and disappointing sales updates from bellwether companies such as cosmetics group L'Oreal and food company Nestle capped appetite for shares.

At 0630 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC were between 0.1 percent lower and 0.1 percent higher.

U.S. stocks closed higher on Monday and Japanese shares bounced from six-month lows overnight after strong U.S. retail sales data helped calm nerves despite a resurgence of tensions in Ukraine.

European foreign ministers agreed to step up sanctions, and U.S. officials have said they were in consultations with European partners on how to punish Moscow for what Kiev and its Western allies call a Russian plot to dismember Ukraine.

"If there is any sort of announcement that there are going to be further curbs from the West, we'd expect the market to drop off again," Stuart McDonald, a sales trader at IG, said.

Corporate updates were also downbeat.

French cosmetics group L'Oreal and foods giant Nestle's both undershot market expectations with their first-quarter sales but pledged they would return to top-line growth in the coming quarters.

Adverse currency moves weighed on first-quarter sales at Roche Holding AG , which came in slightly below the average analyst forecast despite a healthy uptake of its new cancer medicines.

Shares in L'Oreal rose nearly 10 percent in the past month, leaving room for some profit-taking after the disappointing update. Analysts at Barclays, however, recommended sticking with the stock and bet on better numbers in the month to come.

"While shares have bounced off recent lows, we expect sequential operational improvement this year and reiterate our 'Overweight' stance," the analysts wrote in a note.

Austrialian-listed shares in Rio Tinto's were flat after the global miner said it remained on track to meet its full-year target despite an 8 percent drop in first-quarter iron ore shipments, which it blamed on weather-related disruptions in Australia and Canada.

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

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/rav46v > Asian shares edge higher on U.S. data, Ukraine anxiety lingers > Wall St ends up after Citi results, retail sales > Nikkei bounces from 6-mth lows on U.S. retail sales, weak yen > Yields rise as stocks gain, data signals economic growth > FOREX-Dollar firms after upbeat U.S. retail sales data > Gold slips from 3-wk high as strong equities offset safe-haven buying > METALS-Nickel eases from 14-month top, copper falls for 2nd day > Brent rises over $1.50 as Ukraine concerns sharply escalate

COMPANY NEWS

CREDIT SUISSE

Credit Suisse AG has hired Jim Spencer from Lazard Ltd as head of financial institutions investment banking for the Americas, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters on Monday.

ROCHE

Adverse currency moves weighed on first-quarter sales at the Swiss drugmaker, which fell 1 percent, despite a healthy uptake of its new cancer medicines.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Monday it had concluded an inquiry into lax drug-safety reporting at Roche and sent its report to the European Commission for the next steps.

NESTLE

Nestle expects sales growth to pick up in the next few quarters after slowing to 4.2 percent in the first quarter as unusually cold weather subdued sales in North America and cost-conscious Europeans continued to opt for cheaper brands.

TELEFONICA

Spanish telecoms provider Telefonica is offering to lease some spectrum to a German competitor in a bid to secure EU antitrust approval for its proposed takeover of KPN's E-Plus unit in Germany, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

SOLVAY

Belgian chemicals group Solvay and Swiss-based INEOS are set to win EU approval for their PVC joint venture after agreeing to sell five sites across Europe to ease competition concerns, two persons familiar with the matter said on Monday.

VIVENDI

Yahoo Inc and Vevo, an online music video hub that is a unit of Vivendi and provides some of the most popular content on Google's YouTube, have expanded their content and regional partnership, Vevo said Monday amid mounting competition for online viewers.

(Reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)