* FTSEurofirst 300, Euro STOXX 50 both up 0.1 pct
* WM Morrison rallies after private equity takeover report
* Carlsberg, Lafarge shrug off EM hit with strong updates
* Tenaris, Vallourec pummelled by U.S. import tariff ruling
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - European shares pared early losses in late trade on Wednesday, tracking a rally in Wall Street, with WM Morrison gaining in the afternoon after a report that the grocer may be taken over by private-equity firms.
The FTSEurofirst 300 mounted a recovery in thin volumes to close up 0.1 percent at 1,338.67, as Wall Street turned higher after a cautious start before U.S. Federal Reserve minutes were released.
“We’ve seen the U.S. markets rally since they’ve opened, and Europe has followed suit. Investors are hoping that policy is going to be able to remain more supportive than some ... are giving it credit for,” said Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG.
“We’re not expecting tapering to come off the table, but the Fed should not be getting any more hawkish.”
WM Morrison rallied 4.9 percent after Reuters reported that bankers were working on debt-financing packages of around 5 billion pounds ($8.35 billion) to back a sale of the British supermarket chain to private-equity funds.
“It seems like it’s coming from a good source, and it’d been speculated for a few weeks. If you’re going after one of the supermarkets, it’s one of the easier targets ... and this is the first credible story that it’s moving forward,” Hedden said.
“People like the story, and we’ve seen a lot of buying on the back of it.”
Better earnings news helped to support the market. Shares in Carlsberg surged 7.1 percent as the world’s fourth largest brewer raised its dividend by a third thanks to growth in Western Europe and Asia offsetting sluggish sales in Russia, where the economy is slowing.
Lafarge, which derives 58 percent of its sales from emerging markets, confirmed its targets despite a hit from volatile currencies in the fourth quarter, betting on continued growth in emerging markets and a recovery in North America and Europe. Its shares rose 3.2 percent.
The market was in negative territory for most of the day, pulling back from overbought conditions, and Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis firm Day-By-Day, said that the Euro Stoxx 50 could hit 3,050 by Friday. It closed up 0.1 percent at 3,120.80 on Wednesday.
Seamless steel tube maker Tenaris fell 6.4 percent to the bottom of the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index after U.S. trade authorities decided not to impose tariffs on South Korean imports of oil and gas pipe. French peer Vallourec fell 4.5 percent.
Tenaris and Vallourec, which respectively generate 49 percent and 29 percent of their sales in North America, had signed a petition complaining that manufacturers in South Korea and other countries were selling pipe in the United States at unfairly low prices.
“Many people in the market were thinking that the key for improving the pricing power would be some reduction in the imports coming from South Korea,” said Julien Laurent, energy equity analyst at Natixis.
“I assume that the consensus will have to downgrade its estimates (of future earnings per share) a bit. I would say for Tenaris it would be more than 5 percent.”