(ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon - see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development. See the bottom of the report)
LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - European equities headed for a weaker start on the first trading day of the second quarter on Friday, with losses on Wall Street and in Asia and weaker commodity prices seen prompting investors to cut their exposure to riskier assets.
Futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX , France's CAC and Britain's FTSE were down by 0.7-1.3 percent.
In Asia, shares lost more ground as investors began the new quarter in a cautious mood, with glimmers of life in China's economy offset by a darkening mood in Japan.
Activity in China's vast manufacturing sector expanded in March for the first time in nine months as the official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) surprised at 50.2. A private version of the PMI also beat forecasts by rising to its highest in 13 months.
Yet shares in Shanghai fell 0.3 percent. Not helping was Standard & Poor's decision to cut China's credit outlook to negative, saying Beijing's reform agenda was likely to proceed more slowly than expected. A gloomy survey of Japanese manufacturers added to selling pressure and dragged the Nikkei down 3.6 percent.
Focus will be on the U.S. payrolls report later on Friday as any sign of strength in wages might revive the risk of higher U.S. interest rates.
SAINSBURY'S, Home Retail Group
British supermarket group Sainsbury's said on Friday its 1.4 billion pounds ($2 billion) offer for Argos-owner Home Retail Group had been recommended by the board of the catalogue retailer.
Amazon is in talks with a consortium of German carmakers about taking a stake in high-definition digital mapping company HERE, two auto industry sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
The carmaker will recall 3,877 Vento sedan cars in India after tests by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) found that the emission of carbon monoxide was sometimes exceeding the threshold limits.
Officials of the U.S. Department of Justice have asked Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan for details of their dealings with Malaysia's 1MDB, as global investigations into the troubled state fund widen, banking sources said on Friday.
The company said its share buyback programme will start with a first tranche with a maximum purchasing price of 100 million euros ($114 million) to be carried out between April 1 and May 10 at the latest.
Compliance Chief Thomas Kremer has dismissed accusations from German prosecutors that he neglected compliance duties in his previous role at industrial group ThyssenKrupp.
Financial services company Old Mutual is preparing to sell its Italian wealth management unit as part of a wider plan to break up its business, cut costs and revamp earnings, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
The list of industry buyers is tight with Swiss insurer Zurich seen as a likely contender, sources said.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi said their experimental treatment for eczema proved highly effective in two large studies, without serious side effects often seen with standard treatments for the chronic inflammatory skin disease.
Citigroup Inc replaced Prime Reinsurance Company Inc with a subsidiary of Swiss Re Life & Health America Inc as Primerica Life Insurance Company's reinsurer on a coinsurance agreement, the U.S. bank said on Thursday.
Investor advisor Institutional Shareholder Service (ISS) has recommended Swedbank shareholders not to clear former CEO Michael Wolf and outgoing Chairman Anders Sundstrom of responsibility for 2015, Swedish daily Dagens Industri reported.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd said revenue at its carrier business, which competes with Sweden's Ericsson, rose 21.4 percent in 2015 on strong demand for 4G telecommunication equipment as the Chinese group posted its biggest annual revenue growth since 2008.
A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed Standard Chartered Plc from a class-action lawsuit accusing 16 banks of harming investors by rigging prices in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market.
British pay-TV company Sky is looking to sell, for 545 million pounds ($781 million), its headquarters and studios in west London, which it will then rent back in an expected 30-year deal, the Telegraph reported.
ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon (see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development). In a real-time, multimedia format from 0600 London time through the 1630 closing bell, it will include the best of our market reporting, Stocks Buzz service, Eikon graphics, Reuters pictures, eye-catching research and market zeitgeist. Breaking news and dramatic market moves will continue to be alerted to all clients and we will continue to provide a short opening story and comprehensive closing reports.
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Reporting by Atul Prakash)