Europe Factors to Watch-Shares seen steady ahead of euro zone meeting
PARIS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - European stocks were set for a steady open on Monday, taking a breather following last week's sharp gains, as investors awaited the euro zone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels to see if common ground would be found with Greece's new government. On Sunday, Greece said it was confident of reaching agreement in negotiations with its euro zone partners but reiterated it would not accept harsh austerity strings in any debt pact. Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a radio interview that he was not very optimistic that Greece and its euro zone peers would reach a debt agreement in talks on Monday. At 0735 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were flat to down 0.1 percent. Shares in Swiss biotech firm Actelion will be in the spotlight. The firm said it will hike its dividend by 8 percent and that it plans a hefty share buyback over the next three years, after posting in line results. Half way into the earnings season, European corporate results have been positive so far, with 59 percent of companies meeting or beating earnings forecasts with their results, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. In absolute terms, quarterly earnings are up 11.2 percent on average. On the macro front, data showed Japan's economy rebounded from recession in the final quarter of last year but growth was weaker than expected as household and corporate spending disappointed, underlining the challenge premier Shinzo Abe faces in shaking off decades of stagnation. U.S. stock markets will be closed on Monday for a national holiday. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0735 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,096.99 0.41 % 8.51 NIKKEI 18004.77 0.51 % 91.41 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 483.46 0.02 % 0.09 EUR/USD 1.141 0.24 % 0.0027 USD/JPY 118.63 -0.08 % -0.0900 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.047 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 0.349 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,233.00 0.31 % $3.80 US CRUDE $52.70 -0.15 % -0.08 > GLOBAL MARKETS-TOKYO SHARES AT 8-YEAR TOP, GREEK TALKS LOOM > US STOCKS-S&P CLOSES AT RECORD, NASDAQ HITS 15-YEAR HIGH > TOKYO'S NIKKEI SHARE AVERAGE CLOSES UP 0.51 PCT > TREASURIES-YIELDS RISE AS OPTIMISM FOR GREEK DEBT DEAL GROWS > EURO DRIFTS UP ON HOPES OF COMPROMISE AT EURO ZONE MEETING > GOLD EXTENDS GAINS ON SOFTER DOLLAR, GREEK DEBT WORRIES > LONDON COPPER STEADY AS TRADE FALLS OFF ON HOLIDAYS > OIL TURNS LOWER AS GLUT OVERSHADOWS JAPAN'S RETURN TO GROWTH COMPANY NEWS: 888, WILLIAM HILL Online gambling company 888 Holdings said discussions concerning a takeover by Britain's biggest bookmaker William Hill had ended after talks broke down over price with a key stakeholder. HSBC HSBC apologised to customers and investors on Sunday for past practices at its Swiss private bank after allegations that it helped hundreds of clients to dodge taxes. H&M Budget fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz reported on Monday a 14 percent year-on-year increase in January sales, its fourth consecutive month of double-digit local-currency growth. ACTELION Switzerland's Actelion on Monday said it will hike its dividend by 8 percent and buy back as many as 10 million of its own shares in the next three years, following full-year results that met analyst expectations. BW OFFSHORE Norwegian floating oil production firm posted fourth-quarter earnings in line with expectations on Monday, but reduced its dividend payment and said the outlook is more uncertain due to the plunge in oil prices. SAETA YIELD, ACS Saeta Yield, the renewable energy business of Spanish builder ACS due to begin listing on Monday, priced its initial public offering (IPO) at the low end of expectations on Friday, keen to take advantage of improving sentiment for Spanish listings. GENERALI Standard & Poor's has withdrawn all its ratings on Generali after being asked to do so by the Italian insurer which claimed the credit ratings agency had been inflexible in its review. ITALIAN COOPERATIVE BANKS Italian prosecutors have opened a probe into suspicions of insider trading in cooperative bank shares in the run-up to a government decree to reform the sector, which prompted a sharp rise in the shares of several lenders, a judicial source said. TUBACEX SALZGITTER, VALLOUREC A World Trade Organization dispute panel upheld most parts of a complaint against China on Friday in a case brought by Japan and the European Union challenging Chinese anti-dumping duties on high performance seamless stainless steel tubes. The ruling is likely to affect European exporters such as Tubacex and Salzgitter. TESCO Britain's biggest supermarket could cut up to 10,000 jobs as part of its attempts to halt a slide in profits, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported. A spokesman for Tesco declined to comment. BARCLAYS A New York judge on Friday rejected Barclays Plc's effort to dismiss state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's lawsuit accusing it of defrauding clients about high-speed trading in its private "dark pool" trading platform. ASTRAZENECA A U.S. federal judge ruled late on Friday that AstraZeneca's patent on its Pulmicort Repsules treatment for asthma was invalid, opening up the market to a second, cheaper generic version. MORRISONS British grocer Morrisons said on Monday it had cut prices on items like milk, cheese and cornflakes in the latest salvo in a supermarket price war. DEUTSCHE BANK Deutsche Bank management is focusing on plans for a slimmed-down universal bank as part of its strategic review, where the group remains internationally engaged in most of its current activities but pulls out of unprofitable regions and business lines, newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Monday. BAYER, SANOFI Olivier Brandicourt, head of Bayer AG's healthcare business, is well placed to become chief executive of French drug maker Sanofi, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people with knowledge of the company's strategy. DEUTSCHE WOHNEN Germany's second-largest real estate group has launched an offer to acquire Austrian peer Conwert in a deal that values the company at about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), it said on Sunday. FRAPORT Greece plans to review a 1.2 billion euro ($1.37 billion) deal for German airport operator Fraport to run 14 regional airports, one of Greece's biggest privatisation deals since its debt crisis began in 2009, the state minister said on Saturday. UBS A former UBS banker who helped U.S. authorities prosecute the Swiss bank in a tax fraud case has asked for permission to travel to France to comply with a subpoena in another investigation of the company, according a court document. SYNGENTA Syngenta AG may file counterclaims against some of the more than 750 U.S. grain farmers and exporters who have sued the seed maker over its sales of a type of biotech corn seed that disrupted trading with China last year, a regulatory filing shows. NOVARTIS Novartis' new heart failure drug was granted a speedier review by the U.S. drug regulator, shortening the review by four months, the Swiss drugmaker said on Friday. EURAZEO The French investment fund has entered exlusive talks with Union InVivo to take a minority stake in the animal nutrition group, Eurazeo said in a statement on Sunday. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson)
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