* FTSEurofirst 300, Euro STOXX 50 both up 0.1 pct
* WM Morrison rallies after private equity takeover report
* Carlsberg, Lafarge shrug off EM hit with strong updates
* Tenaris, Vallourec pummelled by U.S. import tariff ruling
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 19 European shares pared early
losses in late trade on Wednesday, tracking a rally in Wall
Street, with WM Morrison gaining in the afternoon after a report
that the grocer may be taken over by private-equity firms.
The FTSEurofirst 300 mounted a recovery in thin
volumes to close up 0.1 percent at 1,338.67, as Wall Street
turned higher after a cautious start before U.S. Federal Reserve
minutes were released.
"We've seen the U.S. markets rally since they've opened, and
Europe has followed suit. Investors are hoping that policy is
going to be able to remain more supportive than some ... are
giving it credit for," said Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG.
"We're not expecting tapering to come off the table, but the
Fed should not be getting any more hawkish."
WM Morrison rallied 4.9 percent after Reuters
reported that bankers were working on debt-financing packages of
around 5 billion pounds ($8.35 billion) to back a sale of the
British supermarket chain to private-equity funds.
"It seems like it's coming from a good source, and it'd been
speculated for a few weeks. If you're going after one of the
supermarkets, it's one of the easier targets ... and this is the
first credible story that it's moving forward," Hedden said.
"People like the story, and we've seen a lot of buying on
the back of it."
Better earnings news helped to support the market. Shares in
Carlsberg surged 7.1 percent as the world's fourth
largest brewer raised its dividend by a third thanks to growth
in Western Europe and Asia offsetting sluggish sales in Russia,
where the economy is slowing.
Lafarge, which derives 58 percent of its sales
from emerging markets, confirmed its targets despite a hit from
volatile currencies in the fourth quarter, betting on continued
growth in emerging markets and a recovery in North America and
Europe. Its shares rose 3.2 percent.
The market was in negative territory for most of the day,
pulling back from overbought conditions, and Valerie Gastaldy,
head of technical analysis firm Day-By-Day, said that the Euro
Stoxx 50 could hit 3,050 by Friday. It closed up 0.1
percent at 3,120.80 on Wednesday.
Seamless steel tube maker Tenaris fell 6.4 percent
to the bottom of the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300
index after U.S. trade authorities decided not to impose tariffs
on South Korean imports of oil and gas pipe. French peer
Vallourec fell 4.5 percent.
Tenaris and Vallourec, which respectively generate 49
percent and 29 percent of their sales in North America, had
signed a petition complaining that manufacturers in South Korea
and other countries were selling pipe in the United States at
unfairly low prices.
"Many people in the market were thinking that the key for
improving the pricing power would be some reduction in the
imports coming from South Korea," said Julien Laurent, energy
equity analyst at Natixis.
"I assume that the consensus will have to downgrade its
estimates (of future earnings per share) a bit. I would say for
Tenaris it would be more than 5 percent."