Europe Factors to Watch-Futures edge down; earnings in focus
PARIS, Feb 12 (Reuters) - European stocks were set for a slightly lower open on Thursday, with investors focusing on a big batch of quarterly results from companies including EDF, Rio Tinto and Credit Suisse. Ukraine was also in the spotlight, with President Petro Poroshenko said certain conditions set by Russia at talks in Minsk on the Ukraine conflict were unacceptable but there still was hope, Russian news agency reported on Thursday. At 0744 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1-0.3 percent in volatile trading. Rio Tinto handed shareholders a $2 billion capital return on top of a higher than expected dividend on Thursday, despite reporting its worst half-year profit in two years. Swiss bank Credit Suisse outlined measures to deal with the strong Swiss franc, as fourth-quarter net profit beat analysts' estimates. French bank Societe Generale said it would cut its exposure to Russia in the face of mounting loan loss provisions as it posted a nearly three-fold increase in fourth-quarter net profit. French oil major Total took a $6.5 billion writedown in the fourth quarter on Canadian oil sands, U.S. shale gas and European refining assets as the collapse in crude oil prices sent net adjusted profits down 10 percent. Greece will remained in focus. In seven hours of crisis talks in Brussels that ended after midnight, euro zone finance ministers were unable to agree even a joint statement on the next procedural steps. Both sides played down the setback, insisting there had been no rupture. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0744 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,068.53 0 % -0.06 NIKKEI 17979.72 1.85 % 327.04 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 473.88 -0.5 % -2.37 EUR/USD 1.133 -0.01 % -0.0001 USD/JPY 120.23 -0.18 % -0.2200 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.986 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 0.347 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,222.05 0.28 % $3.39 US CRUDE $49.80 1.97 % 0.96 > GLOBAL MARKETS-STOCKS DIPS AS GREEK UNCERTAINTY SAPS CONFIDENCE > US STOCKS-U.S. STOCK FUTURES RISE ON GREEK AGREEMENT AFTER S&P ENDS FLAT > NIKKEI CLOSES AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN 7-1/2 YRS AS WEAK YEN LIFTS EXPORTERS > EURO RALLY FADES AS GREEK DEAL STILL UP IN THE AIR > PRECIOUS-GOLD TICKS UP FROM 5-WK LOW AS GREEK DEBT DRAMA UNFOLDS > METALS-LONDON COPPER STEADY AMID GREECE JITTERS; CHINA EYED > BRENT HOLDS NEAR $55 AFTER BIG FALL ON RECORD U.S. CRUDE STOCKS COMPANY NEWS: RIO TINTO Global miner handed shareholders a $2 billion capital return on top of a higher than expected dividend on Thursday, despite reporting its worst half-year profit in two years. CREDIT SUISSE The Swiss bank said on Thursday it is introducing a number of measures to deal with the strong Swiss franc, as fourth-quarter net profit beat analysts' estimates. SOCIETE GENERALE The French bank said on Thursday it would cut its exposure to Russia in the face of mounting loan loss provisions as it posted a nearly three-fold increase in fourth-quarter net profit. TOTAL The French oil major took a $6.5 billion writedown in the fourth quarter on Canadian oil sands, U.S. shale gas and European refining assets as the collapse in crude oil prices sent net adjusted profits down 10 percent. ZURICH INSURANCE GROUP The group said it would keep its dividend stable at 17 Swiss francs per share for 2014 after its full-year net profit declined less than expected. PERNOD RICARD French spirits group on Thursday posted a flat first-half operating profit as a crackdown on extravagant spending in China and a struggling vodka market in the United States, its biggest market prevented earnings growth. EDF French power utility said on Thursday net income rose 5.2 percent to 3.70 billion euros as output at its nuclear plants exceeded forecasts and despite a decline in power consumption due to mild weather. RENAULT French carmaker said on Thursday it was targeting further sales and earnings improvement this year after strong European deliveries of no-frills cars and mini-SUVs more than tripled full-year profit. IMPERIAL TOBACCO GROUP The firm reported a 4 percent decline in tobacco volumes for its fiscal first quarter, in line with the broader market, and stood by its outlook for the year. BT BT kicked off its 1 billion pound placing on Thursday, saying it would launch an underwritten accelerated bookbuilding process immediately to fund its 12.5 billion pound ($19 billion) acquisition of mobile operator EE. HERMES French luxury goods maker on Thursday demonstrated further resilience to the industry downturn by posting a 9.6 percent rise in fourth-quarter sales at constant exchange rates, slightly below some analysts' expectations. BILFINGER Ailing German industrial services firm just met its 2014 guidance with a 35 percent drop in operating profit and said it would put its offshore and marine units up for sale. BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA The bank has raised the size of a planned capital increase to 3 billion euros to meet tough capital targets set by the European Central Bank after reporting its fourth consecutive annual loss. BANCO POPOLARE Banco Popolare posted a larger-than-expected loss of 1.95 billion euros in 2014 hit by 3.56 billion euros in loan loss provisions as it took into account the outcome of last year's health check of banking assets across the euro zone. UBI BANCA Italian tax police carried out a fresh round of searches in the offices of Italy's fifth-largest bank UBI Banca on Wednesday as part of a probe into alleged obstruction of regulators, two sources and a judicial document said. UNICREDIT The Italian bank has signed a deal with U.S. investment firm Fortress Investment Group to sell its UCCMB bad loan management unit together with a pool of non-performing loans with a gross book value of 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion). PUBLICIS France's promised business would pick up in the second half of this year as the advertising agency recovered from a tough 2014 marred by a failed mega-merger with U.S. peer Omnicom. COMMERZBANK The bank posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter net profit of 77 million euros ($87 million) as a falloff in loan loss provisions compensated for weaker revenue and Chief Executive Martin Blessing predicted a difficult year ahead. AKZONOBEL Dutch paint and chemicals company AkzoNobel AKZO.AS said on Thursday it was on track to meet its targets for this year as it posted fourth-quarter earnings figures that exceeded analyst expectations. LUFTHANSA Pilots at Lufthansa's budget airline, Germanwings, started a two-day strike on Thursday as German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) seeks to put pressure on management in a long-running row over pay and conditions. KBC The Belgian financial group on Thursday posted a better-than-expected adjusted net profit for the final quarter of 2014 as interest income expanded and loans and deposits grew in its main markets. ZALANDO Europe's largest online fashion retailer reported fourth-quarter core profit that jumped about fivefold as it reined in marketing spending and grew sales. LEGRAND Power switch and socket maker said difficult prospects in Russia would drag on 2015 revenue growth as it delivered full-year profit that undershot expectations. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson)
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