Europe Factors to Watch-Shares to tread water ahead of EZ data
(Adds company news, quotes, futures) LONDON/PARIS, May 15 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen opening flat to lower on Thursday, with some upbeat corporate earnings helping keep key indexes within striking distance of multi-year highs even though investors refrained from marking large bullish bets on indexes before some key euro zone data. Insurers Aegon, Zurich and Generali, media company Vivendi, clothing retailer H&M and jeweller Richemont were all indicated to open between 1 and 2 percent higher after their results releases, according to broker indications. At 0631 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC were down 0.1-0.2 percent. The CAC and the FTSE hit multi-year highs earlier this week, boosted by speculation the ECB may cut rates and announce other measures at its June meeting. After the central bank said any move would be data-dependent, traders were set to scrutinise euro zone GDP figures and inflation figures, both due at 0900 GMT. "Results will provide support but the focus today is on the economic data," Mike Reuter, a broker at Tradition said. "If readings later this morning from the likes of Italy come in lower than expected, we could really see a change in direction (higher)." France's own GDP reading missed expectations as it showed the euro zone's second largest economy was flat in the first quarter of 2014. German economic growth, however, doubled to 0.8 percent quarter on quarter, beating consensus estimates. The Dow and S&P 500 indexes retreated from recent, record highs and small caps resumed their sell-off overnight, with consumer discretionary shares lagging after disappointing updates by some large retailers. Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v) Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0632 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,888.53 -0.47 % -8.92 NIKKEI 14298.21 -0.75 % -107.55 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 485.74 0.19 % 0.9 EUR/USD 1.3707 -0.05 % -0.0007 USD/JPY 101.92 0.05 % 0.0500 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.553 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.380 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,301.27 -0.29 % -$3.73 US CRUDE $101.98 -0.38 % -0.39 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares tread water, bonds supported > Wall St ends lower; small caps raise concern > Nikkei drops on stronger yen; Sony, Credit Saison tumble > Yields fall to six-month lows, ECB rate cuts expected > Euro pressured as ECB easing expectations push yields lower > Strikes support platinum, palladium prices;gold above $1,300 > LME nickel plunges nearly 10 pct, gripped by technical selling > Brent holds above $110 on Ukraine supply disruption risks COMPANY NEWS ASSICURAZIONI GENERALI Generali said on Thursday net profit rose 9.4 percent to 660 million euros ($905 million) in the first quarter, helped by a rebound in the life segment in Italy, a strong performance in the non-life business and improved financial markets. Grupo BTG Pactual SA, Latin America's largest independent investment bank, is in exclusive talks to buy wealth management firm BSI from Italian insurer Generali SpA, according to a statement Wednesday by Generali. ZURICH Zurich Insurance posted a 20 percent rise in first quarter net profit on Thursday, as the Swiss company said there were early signs it would hit its medium-term targets. ALSTOM, TELECOM, HEALTH, WATER SECTORS The French government has issued a decree allowing it to block any foreign takeovers of French companies in "strategic" industries, throwing up a potential roadblock to General Electric's planned $16.9 billion bid for Alstom's energy assets. VIVENDI The French media and telecoms group said was positioned for growth focusing on media and content after the sale of its SFR telecoms unit as it reported first-quarter sales in line with forecasts. Sales for the first three months of the year came in at 2.722 billion euros, up 2 percent organically and at constant currencies, in line with a Thomson Reuters consensus forecast. EBITA was 268 million euros, up 2.8 percent from a year ago on a constant currency and continuing businesses basis - excluding SFR activities and euro weakness. Including those factors, it was down 11.2 percent. RICHEMONT Cartier owner Richemont said underlying sales grew 8 percent in April, excluding Japan, and said it would launch a new share buyback programme. TOD'S Italian luxury leather group Tod's said on Wednesday first-quarter revenue was flat year-on-year as a decline in like-for-like sales was balanced by income from new shops. NEXANS Management faces a hedge fund resolution to dismiss its Chairman and Chief Executive Frederic Vincent from the board at the cablemaking company's annual meeting amid pressure for the company to spit the chairman and CEO roles. Newspaper reports said a board meeting would take place ahead of the AGM to consider a role split. BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA Italy's highest court has asked a lower tribunal to reassess whether investment bank Nomura committed fraud against Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena through a large derivative contract, raising the spectre of a possible asset seizure. Italy's Treasury has authorised the Monte Paschi Foundation, the former top shareholder of the Tuscan lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena, to underwrite the bank's capital increase of 5 billion euros ($6.86 billion), a Treasury sposkesman said on Wednesday. HENNES & MAURITZ The Swedish budget fashion retailer said its sales rose 17 percent in April, above a median forecast of 10 percent in a Reuters poll of analysts. ERAMET The mining group said on Wednesday a rebound in nickel prices fuelled by an Indonesian export ban had started to boost profitability, but remained cautious over its results while awaiting the outcome of elections in the country. BNP PARIBAS France's biggest bank said on Wednesday there was a risk that a fine for violating U.S. sanctions could be significantly higher than the $1.1 billion euros it has provisioned for. Chief Executive Laurent Bonnafe, speaking at a shareholders meeting, did not say how much BNP BNPP.PA expects to have to pay, but people familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week that BNP is in talks with U.S. authorities to pay more than $3 billion to resolve probes into whether the bank violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, Sudan and other countries. The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, said on Wednesday that BNP has alerted the French government that the fine may exceed $3 billion. RENAULT Renault is looking closely at Western sanctions on Russia even though its carmaking alliance with Nissan appears better positioned than others to ride out the crisis over Ukraine. ASTRAZENECA The drugmaker's boss said on Wednesday he would engage with Pfizer if the price was right and the risks posed from forcing the British drugmaker's operations into the U.S. company's new three-unit model were addressed. ROCHE Roche Holding's drug from a closely watched new class of cancer immunotherapies showed promise against advanced bladder cancer in a small, early stage study, according to data released on Wednesday. For more, click on NOVARTIS Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said it was allowed to launch a generic version of Novartis' leukemia drug Gleevec in the United States on Feb. 1, 2016, under a settlement agreement between the two companies. For more, click on (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Atul Prakash)
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