Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to pause after rally
PARIS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to inch lower on Thursday, pausing for breath following their week-long rally, as investors comb through a raft of company results, seeking signs of a long-awaited recovery in corporate profits. Mergers and acquisitions activity was set to support the market, with news that U.S. cable major Comcast Corp will buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion, and as France's Danone is weighing a sale of its tube feeding products unit which could fetch over 3 billion euros. At 0730 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for UK's FTSE 100, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.2-0.3 percent. Euro zone banks will be in focus again after BNP Paribas said it will increase its dividend payout ratio to around 45 percent as part of its new strategy to boost returns over the next three years, while Commerzbank posted a better-than-expected annual profit. The STOXX euro zone bank index has surged about 8 percent so far this year, strongly outperforming the overall market. Food giant Nestle will also be in focus after the group said it expects another challenging year that could see it undershoot long-term targets again, after price pressures in Europe and weaker emerging market demand made sales growth slow to 4.6 percent in 2013. Its shares were indicated down 1.6 percent in premarket. "The earnings flow today is mixed, and we see a couple of big names being impacted by the crisis in the emerging markets, so even if the overall picture is relatively positive, investors have to be selective," a Paris-based trader said. Nearly halfway through Europe's earnings season, 58 percent of European companies have met or beaten quarterly profit forecasts, their best score since the third quarter of 2012, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. In absolute terms, however, the data shows profits are down 3.5 percent compared to the same quarter a year before. Europe bourses in 2014:Asset performance in 2014:------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0730 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,819.26 -0.03 % -0.49 NIKKEI 14,534.74 -1.79 % -265.32 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 451.13 -0.77 % -3.52 EUR/USD 1.3627 0.26 % 0.0035 USD/JPY 102.04 -0.47 % -0.4800 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.766 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.717 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,289.00 -0.13 % -$1.64 US CRUDE $99.74 -0.63 % -0.63 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares slip, investors pause after rally > US STOCKS-S&P's 4-day rally ends on P&G's view; Cisco off late > Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes down 1.79 pct > FOREX-Aussie sinks on poor jobs data, Euro nurses losses > PRECIOUS-Gold holds near 3-month high; eyes $1,300/oz on technicals > METALS-London copper slips; China optimism supports prices > Brent edges lower toward $108; higher demand outlook caps losses COMPANY NEWS: DANONE Danone is weighing a sale of its tube feeding products unit which could fetch over 3 billion euros ($4.10 billion) as it expands its dairy business in higher-growth emerging markets, three people familiar with the deal said. MEDIA SECTOR Comcast Corp is buying Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal, combining the nation's two largest cable operators, according to people familiar with the matter. NESTLE Nestle expects another challenging year that could see it undershoot long-term targets again, after price pressures in Europe and weaker emerging market demand made sales growth slow to 4.6 percent in 2013. BNP PARIBAS France's No. 1 listed bank, reported a 76 percent decline in quarterly profits after booking a $1.1 billion litigation provision linked to a potential breach of U.S. sanctions. The bank also said it will increase its dividend payout ratio to around 45 percent as part of its new strategy to boost returns over the next three years. COMMERZBANK The lender accelerated its turnaround plan and improved its capital and clean-up targets on Thursday after posting a small profit in the fourth quarter of 2013 as its restructuring gained traction. RIO TINTO The global miner reported a 45 percent jump in second-half profit on Thursday, beating market forecasts thanks to sharp cost-cutting, lower capital spending and production growth. HERMES The French luxury goods maker posted a 4.6 percent rise in fourth-quarter sales thanks to solid demand for its leather handbags, silks and ready-to-wear ranges, across regions, although yen weakness weighed on growth. PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN PSA Peugeot Citroen PEUP.PA has reached an outline deal with Dongfeng 0489.HK and France to raise up to 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in fresh capital and deepen cooperation with the Chinese carmaker, sources familiar with the matter said. ROLLS ROYCE The group exceeded expectations with a 23 percent rise in full year profit on Thursday, and forecast 2014 profits to be flat on the back of declining defence and marine revenues, before growth resumes in 2015. EDF Europe's No. 1 electricity producer said core 2013 earnings rose 4.8 percent to 16.8 billion euros ($22.83 billion) and proposed an unchanged dividend of 1.25 euros per share. ENI The Italian oil and gas group percent to 3.52 billion euros ($4.78 billion), hit by lower production in Libya and Nigeria and a stronger euro against the dollar. RENAULT The French carmaker pledged to lift its operating margin to 5 percent in 2017, extending its turnaround plan by one year after missing a mid-term sales goal and taking heavy asset writedowns in 2013. PERNOD RICARD The French spirits group cut its annual profit growth goal as it warned demand in China, its second-largest market, would remain weak throughout its fiscal year ending in June. LLOYDS BANKING GROUP State-backed said it paid 395 million pounds ($655 million) in bonuses last year, up 8 percent on the year before, as it reported a profit for the first time since it was rescued by taxpayers six years ago.
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