Europe Factors to Watch-Shares to drop after Chinese data
PARIS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to fall in early trade on Thursday as data showing a drop in China's factory activity revived worries about the pace of global growth. Investors were also rattled by minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy-setting meeting, which indicated that the central bank will keep trimming its bond-buying stimulus unless there is a significant economic surprise. The minutes triggered a late sell-off on Wall Street on Wednesday. China's flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a seven-month low of 48.3 in February from January's final reading of 49.5, sparking a sell-off in Asian shares. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction while one above shows expansion. Investors awaited manufacturing data for Germany, France and the euro zone as a whole. The forecast for Germany's flash manufacturing PMI, due at 0828 GMT is for 56.3; for France, due at 0758 GMT, is 49.6; and for the euro zone, due at 0858 GMT, is 54. Traders were also combing through a flurry of company results, seeking clues on the damage caused by sharp currency swings in emerging markets. "It's hard to really price in the currency crises in emerging markets as we don't know where it will stop. So, protectively, a lot of people prefer cutting positions on stocks with strong exposure to emerging countries," a Paris-based equity and exchange-traded fund (ETF) sales trader. Electrical gear maker Schneider Electric warned it expected low single-digit organic sales growth this year and that unfavourable exchange rates would continue to weigh on its operating margin. Similar picture from consumer goods group Henkel, which said weak foreign currencies would continue to hurt its results in the first half of 2014 as it reported fourth-quarter sales below expectations. European blue-chips are more exposed to emerging market weakness than American and Japanese peers. According to data from MSCI, companies listed on the MSCI Europe index have about 24 percent exposure to emerging markets, versus 15 percent for MSCI USA and 14 percent for MSCI Japan. Overall, half way into European earnings season, results have been relatively good, with 59 percent of companies reporting in line or better-than-expected profits, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine. In absolute terms, profits are up 1.3 percent year-over-year and revenues are up 1.9 percent.Europe bourses in 2014:Asset performance in 2014:------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0729 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,828.75 -0.65 % -12.01 NIKKEI 14,449.18 -2.15 % -317.35 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 456.11 -0.90 -4.15 EUR/USD 1.3749 0.12 % 0.0017 USD/JPY 101.93 -0.37 % -0.3800 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.718 -- -0.02 10-YR BUND YLD 1.663 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,313.44 0.17 % $2.19 US CRUDE $103.12 -0.18 % -0.19 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks slip, yen up on China factory report > Wall St falls after Fed minutes; Facebook drops late > Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes down 2.15 pct > Dollar dips, Aussie slides as China factory survey disappoints > Gold weakens as dollar recovers after Fed minutes > London copper slips as China factory growth contracts > Brent slips below $110 on worries over China growth COMPANY NEWS: BANKS, MARKET OPERATORS France and Germany agreed that a planned pan-European tax on financial transactions should cover all derivatives products, a source close to French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday. HENKEL German consumer goods group said weak foreign currencies would continue to hurt its results in the first half of 2014 as it reported fourth-quarter sales below expectations. SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC Schneider said it expected low single-digit organic sales growth this year and that unfavourable exchange rates would continue to weigh on its operating margin. RANDSTAD The Dutch staffing firm reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Thursday because of currency effects and marketing costs, and said it expects a continued gradual improvement into the first quarter. BAE SYSTEMS BAE posted a 3 percent rise in full-year profit on Thursday, in line in analysts' expectations, and said it expected continuing U.S. budget pressures to reduce earnings per share by 5-10 percent this year compared to 2013. ACCOR Europe's largest hotelier said it achieved a 5.3 percent like-for-like rise in full-year operating profit, driven by robust demand in Europe and in emerging markets. SAFRAN The aerospace, security and defence group predicted "significant" growth in profitability this year after posting higher earnings on the back of stronger than targeted demand for civil jet engine overhauls in 2013. BARRY CALLEBAUT Barry Callebaut has acquired the remaining 51 percent of Biolands Group, a certified cocoa bean supplier in Africa, the latest effort to secure long-term bean supplies to meet rising demand. TECHNIP The French oil services group reported an 8 percent increase in fourth-quarter revenue to 2.484 billion euros and raised its 2013 dividend by 10 percent while confirming previously lowered targets. AIR FRANCE-KLM The airline swung more sharply into profit than expected last year and said it was on course to meet its main debt reduction goal in 2015 after a prolonged crisis. THALES Europe's largest defence electronics firm signalled a continued offensive in emerging markets on Wednesday after Gulf defence contracts helped boost its order intake in 2013, while in western Europe military cuts continued to bite. SAINT-GOBAIN Europe's biggest supplier of construction materials said cost savings, innovation and a recovery in the United States would help operating profit to rebound this year after adverse currency effects and a weak economy in Europe hit 2013 sales and profits. NATIXIS The French investment bank has promised to return more cash to shareholders after posting a 10 percent rise in underlying fourth-quarter net profits due to cost-cutting. INGENICO The French maker of electronic payment terminals reported 2013 group net income grew 18 percent to 114 million euros said it saw 2014 organic revenue growth of at least 10 percent. MEDIOBANCA Italian investment bank Mediobanca is working on a project to pool the bad loans some of the smaller Italian lenders built up during the recession, CEO Alberto Nagel said on Wednesday, adding the bank would decide whether the project is feasible in the next two months. ORANGE The French network operator received approval from the national telecoms regulator for a pilot test of "LTE Advanced", an advanced version of the fourth-generation mobile technology. GENERALI The board of Generali has mandated Chief Executive Mario Greco to pursue legal action and seek damages from two former top executives in relation to past loss-making investments, the Italian insurer said on Wednesday. AIR LIQUIDE The industrial chemicals company said it signed a share buyback agreeement covering 0.4 percent of its share capital. ICADE The French office-property investor reported a 141-percent increase in annual net profit for 2013 and said it would propose a dividend of 3.67 euros per share. AEROPORTS DE PARIS The French airports group reported a 10-percent drop in 2013 net income group share to 305 million euros.
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