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(Adds futures prices, company news items, updates snapshot table)
LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) - European shares were set to rise for the third straight session on Thursday, mirroring hefty gains on Wall Street, on growing optimism for corporate earnings and encouraging signs of an improving economy.
By 0638 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50 STXc1 rose 0.8 percent. Germany's DAX futures FDXc1 gained 0.8 percent and France's CAC 40 futures FCEc1 put on 0.6 percent.
Trading volumes, however, were expected to be thin as the Easter holiday break approached.
U.S. and European corporate earnings are expected to dominate the trading session, with technology shares likely to be in the spotlight once again after iPhone maker Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) results surged past forecasts after markets closed. [ID:nLDE73K02B]
The STOXX Europe 600 technology index .SX8P rose 2.7 percent on Wednesday after forecast-beating revenue from U.S. bellwether Intel (INTC.O).
Investors will look to results from major firms from both sides of the Atlantic on Thursday, including Nokia NOK1V.HE, Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and General Electric (GE.N), to gauge the strength of the recovery in corporate profits.
Highlighting the strength of this season's corporate earnings, 83 percent of 70 companies on the S&P 500 .SPX that have so far reported earnings have posted in-line or above-forecast figures, with the rest coming in below expectations, data from Thomson Reuters StarMine showed.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top shares ended at a one-week closing high on Wednesday, up 1.9 percent to 1,137.81 points, on upbeat corporate earnings.
On Wall Street, the Dow industrials .DJI hit their highest in almost three years on big earnings surprises. Several U.S. manufacturers' results also pointed to a recovering global economy. [ID:nN20131601]
Heavyweight mining shares were expected to draw strength from on surging commodity prices, with gold powering to a lifetime high for a fifth consecutive session on the back of a sharply weaker dollar and silver rising to its highest in more than three decades.
Analysts said equity market could suffer from a bout of weakness later in the session as traders lock in profits on the last trading session for the week, with the FTSEurofirst 300 index up 0.5 percent so far this week as shares rebounded from sharp falls on Monday.
"The prospect of some late session profit taking shouldn't be ignored ... as traders look to lock in some of the recent gains although there's no shortage of fresh directional news expected either," said Cameron Peacock, market analyst at IG markets, referring to major macroeconomic data due later in the session including the German Ifo business climate index and monthly UK retail sales among others.
Lingering concerns over Greece's debt situation could keep further gains in check, with speculation gathering pace that debt restructuring for the highly indebted country was imminent. Greek banking stocks .FTATBNK fell sharply on Wednesday, while the cost of insuring Greek five-year government paper hit record highs.
The Greek finance minister, however, said he considered Greece's debt -- expected to hit about 160 percent of GDP in 2012 -- "totally sustainable", and that a restructuring was out of the question. [ID:nLDE73J1AU]
----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0548 GMT----------------------
LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 .SPX 1,330.36 1.35 % 17.74 NIKKEI .N225 9,687.46 0.84 % 80.64 MSCI ASIA EX-JP .MIASJ0000PUS 596.12 1.16 % 6.83 EUR/USD EUR= 1.4609 0.64 % 0.0093 USD/JPY JPY= 81.94 -0.69 % -0.5700 10-YR US TSY YLD US10YT=RR 3.412 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD EU10YT=RR 3.312 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD XAU= $1,508.00 0.66 % $9.85 US CRUDE CLc1 $112.16 0.64 % 0.71 -----------------------------------------------------------------------
* GLOBAL-Dollar hits 3-yr low; gold, Asian stocks march on [ID:nL3E7FL06T]
* Dow ends near 3-yr high, Apple jumps after earnings [ID:nN20187810]
* Nikkei extends gains on strong U.S. earnings [ID:nL3E7FL0A4]
* Bond prices slip, but renewed gains seen likely [ID:nLDE73K01P]
* Dollar hits 3-year low, may slide towards all-time low [ID:nL3E7FL0CZ]
* Gold roars to all-time high for fifth straight session [ID:nL3E7FF020]
* LME copper steady ahead of long weekend, ShFE up [ID:nL3E7FL070]
* Brent rises above $124 on weak dollar, US stockpile drop [ID:nL3E7FL05O]
On the first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP sued Transocean RIGN.VX, seeking at least $40 billion in damages and other costs from the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. [ID:nN20203453]
Dutch chemical group AkzoNobel reported a strong start to 2011, reporting a 10 percent rise in first-quarter core profit as it raised prices and cut costs to offset higher raw materials expenses. [ID:nLDE63L2KS]
The Dutch telecom group issued a profit warning for 2011, citing poor performance in its domestic market, and said it would cut 20-25 percent of its Dutch workforce. [ID:nLDE73K06E]
SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC (SCHN.PA)
Schneider Electric SA's chief executive essentially ruled out a takeover of Tyco International Ltd TYC.N by saying the French engineering giant does not plan any purchases larger than a "few billion euros" over the next year. [ID:nLDE73J1X1]
French catering and vouchers group Sodexo raised its fiscal 2011 sales goals on Thursday after a stronger-than-expected first half. [ID:nLDE73K01X]
Europe's largest hotel group said it expected demand for hotel rooms to continue growing despite unrest in the Middle East and Japan's earthquake, as it posted robust first-quarter sales. [ID:nLDE73H13D]
ANGLO AMERICAN (AAL.L)
Anglo American posted a 37 percent drop in first quarter coal output from its Australian operations due to bad weather. [ID:nLDE73K075]
DEUTSCHE TELEKOM (DTEGn.DE)
Chief Executive Rene Obermann told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the sale of T-Mobile to AT&T (T.N) cut the number of shares entitled to a dividend, and raised the valuation of Telekom.
This, combined with a contribution from the AT&T stake and lower debt levels amounts to gains of around 1.5 billion euros ($2.18 billion) per year, he added.
Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao said the British-based mobile phone operator would consider listing its Indian business if it won a battle with Indian authorities over a $2.6 billion tax bill, the Financial Times said.
The oilfield services company said it would raise its dividend payout when it reached its debt target. [ID:nWEA6021]
A probe has been launched into the handling of insurer Prudential's failed $35.5 billion bid for AIA (1299.HK), the Financial Times said on Thursday. [ID:nLDE73J24G]
BANCA POPOLARE DI MILANO PMII.MI
The mid-tier lender aims to launch its capital increase of up to 1.2 billion euros ($1.75 billion) at the end of September, Chairman Massimo Ponzellini said in an interview published on Thursday. [ID:nLDE73K03U]
The ad group will grow faster than the market this year despite the drag from Japan's earthquake and Middle East unrest, its chief executive said, adding that 5 percent growth was a conservative aim. [ID:nLDE73J1ZS]
The French engineering group said it had struck an agreement with Shanghai Electric Group (2727.HK) to establish a joint venture combining both companies' power plant boiler divisions. [ID:nN20202723]
REMY COINTREAU (RCOP.PA)
The drinks group posted a 12.4 percent rise in fiscal 2011 full-year sales after demand for its cognac rose by a fifth, driven by China and Russia. [RCOP.PA]
(Reporting by Harpreet Bhal)