Europe Factors to Watch-Shares set to dip ahead of euro zone meeting
PARIS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to dip on Friday, retreating from seven-year highs ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Greece's bailout programme. At 0723 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1-0.4 percent. Investors also awaited flash PMI data for the German, French and overall euro zone services and manufacturing sectors on Friday, expected to show further modest improvement in February. Food giant Danone will be in the spotlight after posting better-than-expected sales for 2014 and saying margins would rise slightly this year. Half way into earnings season, results have been strong in Europe, with 53 percent of companies posting better-than-expected profits, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Fourth-quarter earnings are expected to grow 19.5 percent, which would be the best quarter in 3-1/2 years. A Greek government spokesman said on Friday Greece has made every effort to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with its euro zone partners but will not be pushed to implement its old bailout programme. On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement, saying it was "not a substantial solution" because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout. "Both parties of course want to give away as few concessions as possible so by its very nature, any agreement will probably only be found at the 11th hour," CMC market analyst Jasper Lawler wrote in a note. "Until an agreement is found, the upwards momentum built up in European markets during January could remain contained." The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares ended 0.3 percent higher at 1,520.22 points on Thursday, after hitting a seven-year high during the session. So far this year, the FTSEurofirst 300 has surged 11 percent, outpacing Wall Street's S&P 500, up 2 percent over the same period. The sharp rally has propelled valuation ratios to levels not seen in nearly 11 years. The STOXX 600 index trades at 15.6 times earnings expected in the next 12 months, its highest P/E ratio since mid-2004. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0723 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,097.45 -0.11 % -2.23 NIKKEI 18332.3 0.37 % 67.51 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 483.61 -0.22 % -1.05 EUR/USD 1.1346 -0.18 % -0.0020 USD/JPY 118.84 -0.08 % -0.1000 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.112 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 0.384 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,208.01 0.08 % $0.96 US CRUDE $51.58 0.82 % 0.42 > GLOBAL MARKETS-JAPAN STOCKS RISE, UPBEAT DATA SUPPORTS DOLLAR > US STOCKS-NASDAQ GAINS 7TH DAY; DOW, S&P 500 SLIP WITH WAL-MART > NIKKEI HITS FRESH 15-YEAR HIGH ON STRONG U.S. DATA > TREASURIES-PRICES OFF ON RATE-HIKE UNCERTAINTIES > DOLLAR FIRM AFTER UPBEAT DATA, EURO ON EDGE AHEAD OF GREECE TALKS > GOLD TREADS WATER AS GREEK TALKS EYED; SET FOR FOURTH WEEKLY DROP > METALS-COPPER EYES FLAT WEEK WITH CHINA BUYERS OUT > OIL EDGES UP AS U.S. RIG COUNT LIKELY TO FALL FURTHER COMPANY NEWS: DANONE French food group Danone on Friday forecast sales growth of between 4 and 5 percent this year, as it seeks to cope with deflation in Europe, volatile currencies in emerging markets and a difficult Russian market. STANDARD LIFE The firm said on Friday its operating profit jumped 19 percent to 604 million pounds ($931.49 million), though added annuity sales would be hit this year by government pension reforms. BP A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected BP Plc's BP.L attempt to reduce the maximum civil fine it could face for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, leaving it potentially liable to pay $13.7 billion under the federal Clean Water Act. CLUB MEDITERRANEE The holiday group now controlled by Chinese conglomerate Fosun said on Friday growth in the Americas helped keep revenues stable as volumes were hit by a late Chinese New Year and weakness in Europe and Africa. SANOFI French drugmaker Sanofi named Olivier Brandicourt, a Paris-educated doctor and head of Bayer AG's healthcare arm, as its chief executive officer. GECINA French real estate group Gecina said net income would be at least stable this year after a slight increase in 2014 and announced plans to sell 800 million euros in assets as it raised its dividend 1.1 percent. ADP Paris airports operator Aeroports de Paris posted a 3.4 percent rise in 2014 gross earnings and maintained its target for 2015. NOVARTIS Australia's competition regulator said on Friday it will not oppose a three part deal between Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L to trade more than $20 billion worth of assets, following approval from EU regulators. BAYER German drugmaker Bayer AG is close to selling its diabetes devices business to KKR-backed Panasonic Healthcare Holdings Co Ltd and the unit could be valued at up to $2.3 billion, Bloomberg news reported. FUCHS PETROLUB German lubricant maker Fuchs Petrolub on Friday reported a 2 percent increase in 2014 sales and forecast a further increase this year. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Alistair Smout)
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