Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to dip; all eyes on Alstom
PARIS, April 30 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to open slightly lower on Wednesday, taking a breather following the previous session's sharp gains, as investors turned cautious ahead of the outcome of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, as well as ahead of key U.S. jobs data on Friday and amid brewing tensions in Ukraine. All eyes will be on the shares of Alstom after the French conglomerate said it would review a binding offer from General Electric for its energy business by the end of May and left the door open for a competing bid from Germany's Siemens. Shares in Alstom, suspended since late last week, are set to resume trading on Wednesday. At 0619 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for UK's FTSE 100, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1-0.5 percent. The banking sector will be in the spotlight after BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank, warned it might be hit with a U.S. fine "far in excess" of the $1.1 billion it set aside last year to cover litigation costs linked to a potential breach of U.S. sanctions on countries including Iran. Spain's second-biggest bank, BBVA, will also be in focus after posting a 64 percent fall in first quarter net profit to 624 million euros, largely due to an unfavourable comparison after it booked gains from asset sales a year ago, though revenues also fell. Also on the earnings front, German blue-chip Daimler said adjusted first-quarter operating profit more than doubled on the back of rebounding sales of Mercedes-Benz cars, including the A-Class compact and continued robust sales in China and the United States. "The bulls are riding waves of good economic data, and solid earnings have consequently pushed markets back in the direction of new highs," Lewis Sturdy, trader at Capital Spreads, wrote in a note. So far in Europe's earnings season, about 31 percent of companies listed on the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported quarterly results, of which 55 percent have beaten or met analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v) Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0524 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,878.33 0.48 % 8.9 NIKKEI 14,304.11 0.11 % 15.88 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 474.72 -0.42 % -1.98 EUR/USD 1.3802 -0.07 % -0.0009 USD/JPY 102.32 -0.28 % -0.2900 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.688 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.493 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,292.90 -0.24 % -$3.08 US CRUDE $100.40 -0.87 % -0.88 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares struggle; yen firms as BOJ holds pat > US STOCKS-Wall St ends up on earnings, rebound in high-growth shares > Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes up 0.11 pct > FOREX-Yen firmer at month-end, clings to gains as BOJ stands pat > Gold edges lower as investors await Fed, U.S. data > METALS-Nickel poised for 14 pct gains in April on supply threats > Brent slips towards $108.50 on stock build, fall in U.S. crude COMPANY NEWS: ALSTOM, SIEMENS, ROLLS-ROYCE France's Alstom said on Wednesday it would review a binding offer from General Electric for its energy business by the end of May and left the door open for a competing bid from Germany's Siemens. Separately, Rolls-Royce confirmed late on Tuesday that it was in talks to sell its energy gas turbine and compressor business to Siemens. Sources had told Reuters Siemens was considering paying just under 1 billion euros for a unit. BNP PARIBAS France's biggest bank, warned it might be hit with a U.S. fine "far in excess" of the $1.1 billion it set aside last year to cover litigation costs linked to a potential breach of U.S. sanctions on countries including Iran. BBVA Spain's second-biggest bank will also be in focus after posting a 64 percent fall in first quarter net profit to 624 million euros, largely due to an unfavourable comparison after it booked gains from asset sales a year ago, though revenues also fell. DAIMLER Also on the earnings front, said adjusted first-quarter operating profit more than doubled on the back of rebounding sales of Mercedes-Benz cars, including the A-Class compact and continued robust sales in China and the United States. SANOFI The drugmaker is looking to sell a portfolio of mature drugs that could fetch between $7 billion and $8 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, yet another example of drugmakers trying to shed non-core assets and focus on high-growth areas. BAYER Bayer is offering to swap its animal health assets with Merck & Co's MRK.N consumer healthcare business, people familiar with the matter said late on Tuesday, in a move that could give the German drugmaker a leg up in the $14 billion auction of the Merck business. NOVARTIS U.S. health regulators on Monday approved a drug for advanced lung cancer developed by Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG that is intended to treat patients with a specific genetic mutation. CASINO Brazil's biggest retailer, GPA, posted a higher first-quarter profit as its strategy of lower prices and tighter cost discipline bolstered earnings. POPOLARE MILANO Rights to subscribe to its 500 million euros capital increase will be traded from May 5 to May 16, the cooperative lender said on Tuesday as market regulator Consob approved the prospectus for the capital-strengthening move. THALES Europe's largest defence electronics group by sales confirmed its 2014 financial objectives after posting flat sales in the first quarter, coupled with further evidence of busy demand for defence and security equipment in emerging markets. ENI The Italian oil major is not counting on any production from Kazakhstan's huge Kashagan oilfield this year or possibly next due to faulty welding at the $50 billion project, its CEO designate said. SAIPEM The company has won a 400 million euro contract to help build the second line of Russia's strategic South Stream offshore gas pipeline, designed to end its reliance on Ukraine as a transit state, it said on Tuesday. LUXOTTICA The world's largest eyewear maker by revenue said it expected underlying sales and profits to rise this year after it posted a year-on-year drop in first-quarter sales due to currency volatility. SAINT-GOBAIN Europe's biggest supplier of construction materials said its first-quarter sales rose 2.6 percent to 9.87 billion euros due to favourable weather in Europe. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson, editing by Tricia Wright)
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