Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to halt rally; Yellen eyed
PARIS, Aug 22 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to inch lower in early trading on Friday, taking a breather following a brisk two-week rally, with investors turning cautious ahead of a speech by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. At 0617 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, UK's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were flat to down 0.1 percent. Yellen is due to speak later in the day at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Investors will be looking for any fresh signals about the timing of U.S. interest rate increases. Minutes from the Fed's July meeting on Wednesday showed policymakers debated whether interest rates should be raised earlier given a surprisingly strong job market recovery. "Markets are currently pricing in the first hike for the middle of next year but many believe that the Fed may be forced to do it sooner as the data just keeps on improving," Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari, wrote in a note. "Yellen does not appear to be one to give in to the pressure though, as seen in recent months by her determination to retain her very dovish tone regardless of the improvement in the economic data." On Wall Street on Thursday, the S&P 500 ended at a record high after a flurry of positive economic data, including existing home sales jumping to a 10-month high and initial jobless claims dropping sharply. European stocks have rallied in the past two weeks, helped in part by easing worries over the crisis in Ukraine. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares has risen 2.3 percent so far this week, set to record its biggest weekly gain in six months. The index, which has gained 4.5 percent since a low hit two weeks ago, is still down 3.2 percent from a 5-1/2 year high hit in June. Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v) Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0640 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,992.37 0.29 % 5.86 NIKKEI 15539.19 -0.3 % -47.01 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 513.34 0.59 % 3 EUR/USD 1.3294 0.1 % 0.0013 USD/JPY 103.70 -0.12 % -0.1200 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.402 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 0.991 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,279.74 0.22 % $2.75 US CRUDE $93.97 0.01 % 0.01 > GLOBAL MARKETS-ASIAN SHARES HITCH A RIDE ON WALL STREET'S RECORD > US STOCKS-S&P 500 SETS RECORD CLOSE ON SIGNS OF HEALTHIER ECONOMY > NIKKEI RISES FOR 10TH DAY ON STRONG U.S. SHARES, DATA > FOREX-DOLLAR RALLY PAUSES AS JACKSON HOLE TAKES CENTRE STAGE > GOLD NEAR 2-MONTH LOW; SET FOR WEEKLY DROP ON INTEREST RATE FEARS > METALS-LONDON COPPER EYES BIGGEST WEEKLY RISE IN SEVEN WEEKS > BRENT BELOW $103, HEADS FOR 2ND WEEKLY LOSS AS OIL GLUT PERSISTS COMPANY NEWS: LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE GROUP LSE said it would raise 938 million pounds ($1.6 billion) to part fund the acquisition of Frank Russell Company. It also said its revenue increased 20 percent overall and 12 percent on an organic and constant currency basis. RWE Germany's economy ministry will give the green light for the sale of utility RWE's oil and gas unit DEA to an investor group led by Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman, despite tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis, two people familiar with the matter said. DEUTSCHE BANK Deutsche Bank has sold its North American natural gas trading book to Morgan Stanley, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters. THYSSENKRUPP The chief executive of Schmolz + Bickenbach, Clemens Iller, told Swiss paper Finanz und Wirtschaft that the company was not interested in buying ThyssenKrupp's VDM unit. RSA INSURANCE GROUP RSA said it had reached an agreement to sell its insurance business in Singapore and Hong Kong to Allied World Assurance Co Ltd for 130 million pounds ($215.51 million) in cash. HOEGH LNG Shipping firm Hoegh LNG reported smaller-than-expected second-quarter losses but warned that its market will remain challenging over the next two years, even as the growing global LNG supply will require more vessels over the longer term. UCB The U.S. government is tightening restrictions on hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller contained in Vicodin and other addictive drugs. The move comes as health and law enforcement officials try to curb a rising tide of prescription drug abuse. Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by opioid painkillers, according to federal data. SOFTWARE AG The business software developer said it had hired SAP executive Eric Duffaut to become chief customer officer and executive board member. PETROFAC The Chairman of British oil and gas service group Petrofac, Norman Murray, has resigned with immediate effect due to compassionate reasons, the company said on Friday. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Atul Prakash)
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