April 2, 2014 / 5:40 AM / 4 years ago

European Factors to Watch-Shares set to gain for 7th straight session

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen rising on Wednesday, with a top share index set to gain for the seventh straight session, buoyed by further evidence of a pick-up in economic growth in the United States and signs of increased merger and acquisition activity in Europe.

At 0635 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain’s FTSE 100 , Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC were 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent higher.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 has rallied for six straight sessions, gaining 3.7 percent over that period and leaving the index just 0.8 percent off a 5-1/2-year high hit in February.

Helping gains has been a brighter picture for U.S. growth. On Tuesday the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of U.S. factory activity rose to 53.7 in March, up slightly from February, accelerating for a second straight month, helping stocks around the world to rally.

It is the latest U.S. data release to point to underlying strength in the U.S. economy after a string of underwhelming weather-affected releases following a cold snap over the winter.

In what is a thin day for European data and corporate releases, the U.S. durable goods orders and ADP National employment numbers will be in focus, as investors attempt to gauge the strength of growth ahead of the closely followed non-farm payroll release on Friday.

Traders will also keep an eye on producer price data from the euro zone, out at 0900 GMT, ahead of a meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday, with traders saying that signs of deflation may prompt the ECB to ease policy as soon as this week, though signs that weaker prices may be temporary has fostered the view that the central bank will hold steady.

On Monday data showed euro zone inflation hit its lowest level since November 2009 in March, a shock drop that supported the case for the ECB to take radical action at some point to stop the threat of deflation in the currency bloc.

“All the pressure is still downwards, as far as inflation is concerned for the EU, and nothing really has happened that has made us believe that it’s being tackled effectively,” Alastair McCaig, analyst at IG, said.

“The fact that the inflation figure was lower and worse than expected just re-emphasized the fact that (ECB President Mario Draghi‘s) timeline for being able to waffle has come to an end.”

Mergers and acquisitions could continue to drive individual stocks in the market.

Finnish engineer Metso could retrace some of the 19 percent surge it saw in the previous session after Finland’s state investment fund said it oppose a takeover approach by Weir.

Meanwhile French conglomerate Bouygues turned up the heat in its battle for control of Vivendi’s telecom unit SFR on Tuesday by extending its offer to April 25 from April 8 and presenting a 500 million euro ($689 million) break-up fee.

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

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/rav46v ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares build gains, yen hits 10-week low > US STOCKS-S&P 500 closes at record after manufacturing data > Nikkei hits 3-wk high on US data, Renesas jumps on Apple news > TREASURIES-Long-dated Treasuries yields higher on U.S. data > FOREX-Yen extends slide as equities rally, euro firms > PRECIOUS-Gold nudges up; China demand rises > METALS-Copper hits more than 3-week high after Chile quake > Brent holds above $105, inventory data in focus



Volkswagen U.S. March auto sales were down 2.6 pct year-on-year. Audi sales rose 7.5 pct, Porsche sales rose 9.2 pct and Mercedes-Benz sales rose 11 pct. BMW Group said sales rose 7.9 pct.

Separately, the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Tuesday asked a U.S. agency to stay an April 21 hearing related to a mid-February union vote it lost at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, citing what it called new evidence of collusion between Republican lawmakers and anti-union groups.

Also, Volkswagen has applied to set up its first plant in Thailand, Bloomberg reported late Tuesday citing people familiar with the matter.

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