European Factors to Watch-Shares set to pause; automakers eyed
PARIS, April 16 (Reuters) - European stocks were set for a steady open on Thursday, taking a breather from their recent sharp rally, with shares in automakers eyed after strong industry figures. Unilever will also be in focus after the food giant reported better-than-expected sales for the first quarter, showing improvement from the hammering it took last year from weak emerging markets including a slowdown in China. SABMiller Plc, the world's second-largest brewer by sales, reported a marginal rise in full-year beverage sales volumes and said its results were hurt by the strength of the dollar against various currencies. At 0640 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1 percent to up 0.2 percent. Data showed on Thursday Europe's auto market recovery gained a firmer footing in March, with Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain all posting solid gains. European stocks rallied on Wednesday, with the FTSEurofirst 300 hitting a level not seen since late 2000, after the European Central Bank said it remained committed to its full asset-buying programme to revive the euro zone economy. Greece will be in the spotlight again after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said late on Wednesday that the country must find a way to regain the trust of the financial markets and competitiveness of its economy and that Berlin is willing to support its efforts to reach these goals. UK construction stocks will also be eyed after British housebuilder Persimmon said the upcoming national election was making it more difficult to win planning permission for new developments. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0640 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,106.63 0.51 % 10.79 NIKKEI 19885.77 0.08 % 16.01 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 515.18 1.06 % 5.38 EUR/USD 1.069 0.06 % 0.0006 USD/JPY 119.26 0.11 % 0.1300 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.904 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 0.105 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,204.80 0.29 % $3.50 US CRUDE $56.19 -0.35 % -0.20 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks follow global surge, dollar defensive > US STOCKS-Wall St ends higher as jitters about earnings and oil recede > Nikkei down as drugmakers, food firms retreat hopes > TREASURIES-Bonds steady after weak data, ECB purchases boost demand > FOREX-Aussie jumps on jobs data surprise; dollar nurses losses > PRECIOUS-Gold extends gains on softer dollar, sluggish U.S. data > METALS-London copper prices firm as weak US data drags on dollar > Brent crude hits 2015 highs as U.S. production slows COMPANY NEWS: UNILEVER Unilever reported better than expected sales for the first quarter on Thursday, showing improvement from the hammering it took last year from weak emerging markets including a slowdown in China. AUTO MAKERS Europe's auto-market recovery gained a firmer footing in March, according to industry data published on Thursday, as mid-market brands bounced back and no-frills "crisis car" sales slowed. ZALANDO German online fashion retailer Zalando swung to an operating profit in the first quarter, it said in preliminary figures released on Thursday, ahead of schedule. DEBENHAMS Britain's No.2 department stores chain posted a better-than-expected rise in first-half profit as its strategy of running fewer promotions boosted full-price sales, and an improved online offer helped increase demand. DIAGEO The world's largest spirits maker reported slower quarterly trading on Thursday, hurt by tough comparisons in Britain and retailers reducing inventory in Southeast Asia. UK CONSTRUCTION STOCKS British housebuilder Persimmon said the upcoming national election was making it more difficult to win planning permission for new developments. SABMILLER PLC The world's second-largest brewer by sales, reported a marginal rise in full-year beverage sales volumes and said its results were hurt by the strength of the dollar against various currencies. UBS Activist investor Knight Vinke said UBS needs to "radically" shrink and should look at spinning off or merging its investment bank, reviving its two-year criticism of the Swiss bank. AIRBUS The aerospace group said on Wednesday it will ask shareholders to approve an exceptional share buyback of up to 10 percent of its capital at its annual meeting on May 27. VOLKSWAGEN The steering committee of VW's supervisory board will likely meet by Friday to try to resolve a leadership crisis at the carmaker, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) believes Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn may have to leave after the carmaker's chairman publicly withdrew his confidence in the CEO, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday. HOLCIM Swiss cement maker Holcim said on Thursday it expects the new shares of its tie-up with France's Lafarge to be listed on exchanges in Zurich and Paris in early August. Eurocement Holding AG, the second-largest shareholder in Swiss cement maker Holcim Ltd, said on Wednesday it is nominating its owner Filaret Galchev for a position on the board of a planned tie-up between Holcim and France's Lafarge SA. SODEXO The French catering, facilities management and vouchers group kept its full-year goals after operating profit rose 8.6 percent in the first half, helped by cost cuts and new contracts in North and Latin America, and Australia. RENAULT The carmaker will hold an emergency board meeting in response to French government moves to tighten its grip on the carmaker and its alliance with Nissan, a company source with knowledge of the matter said. CASINO French retailer Casino said growth slowed in the first quarter, reflecting a still lacklustre performance in France, despite price cuts there, while an economic slowdown in Brazil hurt the sales of its consumer electronics business. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson)
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