European Factors to Watch-Shares seen flat; earnings, data in focus
(Updates futures, adds further company news) LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - A raft of major company earnings and economic data were seen dominating investor attention in Europe on Thursday, with key benchmark equity indexes seen staying flat on developments in Ukraine and the eurozone's disappointing pace of recovery. Other regions were cheered by a surprisingly strong reading on Chinese manufacturing, bolstering hopes of recovery in the world's second-biggest economy, and reaction to encouraging results from both Apple Inc and Facebook : Asian stock markets were broadly higher and the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent. At 0650 GMT, futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100 , Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 were trading flat to 0.1 percent lower. Eurozone Markit PMI data was expected later on Thursday, along with more news on the earnings front: Germany's BASF saw operating earnings rise slightly less than expected as product prices slipped, while Finland's Nokia reported better-than-expected quarterly profit margin in its core networks unit and said expectations for 2014 had improved. Unilever reported a lower-than-expected increase in second-quarter sales on Thursday, citing a slowdown in emerging markets and continuing malaise in developed markets. "Today's preliminary manufacturing and services PMI data for July from both France and Germany could well reinforce the weak narrative for Q3," said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets. Legal risks were on the horizon for some firms, with Swiss bank UBS saying it had been ordered by French officials to pay 1.1 billion euros ($1.48 billion) in bail over allegations it laundered the proceeds of tax evasion and the head of Britain's Serious Fraud Office saying Alstom was nearing criminal charges over a probe into alleged corruption. Geopolitical tensions were also in focus after a powerful Ukrainian rebel leader confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia. European Union ambassadors will debate proposals on Thursday on restricting Russian access to Europe's capital markets and defence and energy technology but are not expected to make a quick decision. Gaza fighting also raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas had made some progress. Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v) Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0646 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,987.01 0.18 % 3.48 NIKKEI 15284.42 -0.29 % -44.14 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 508.4 0.17 % 0.86 EUR/USD 1.3444 -0.15 % -0.0020 USD/JPY 101.47 0 % 0.0000 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.464 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.149 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,296.90 -0.53 % -$6.94 US CRUDE $102.96 -0.16 % -0.16 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia shares supported by upbeat China factory survey > US STOCKS-Apple pushes S&P 500 to record close; Boeing hits Dow > Nikkei edges up as weak yen helps mood; China PMI, Japan earnings in focus > TREASURIES-Prices slip, but uptrend seen intact on global tensions > EUROPE FX OPEN-Antipodeans in focus again, AUD up, NZD plunges > PRECIOUS-Gold falls below $1,300 as equities gain; physical buying picks up > METALS-London copper hits one week top as China's growth revives > Brent steady above $108, supported by China factory activity COMPANY NEWS UNILEVER The consumer-goods group reported a lower-than-expected increase in second-quarter sales on Thursday, citing a slowdown in emerging markets and continuing malaise in developed markets. UBS The Swiss bank said it had been ordered by French officials on Wednesday to pay 1.1 billion euros ($1.48 billion) in bail after being put under formal investigation over allegations it laundered the proceeds of tax evasion. BASF Quarterly operating earnings at the world's largest chemicals company by sales, rose slightly less than expected as product prices slipped. ROCHE The Swiss drugmaker posted a slight fall in sales in the first half, as the strong Swiss franc put the brakes on solid growth of its breast cancer medicines. LAFARGE The cement maker announced the sale of its cement operations in Pakistan for a total enterprise value of $329 million. ALSTOM The British Serious Fraud Office's five-year investigation into alleged corruption at Alstom is nearing criminal charges. "Significant developments are imminent - charges are imminent," SFO head David Green said, adding that it was logical in such a case to charge the company before focusing on individuals. ORANGE, MOBISTAR Belgian mobile phone operator Mobistar will not be sold by its largest shareholder, France's Orange, Mobistar's CEO said, commenting on reports that other operators were interested in buying the group. SABMILLER The world's second-biggest brewer, reported higher first-quarter sales volumes on Thursday, helped by demand during an Easter holiday that fell later than last year. UNIBAIL RODAMCO Europe's biggest real estate company confirmed its 2014 earnings forecast as a nascent economic recovery boosts tenants' sales at its shopping malls. REPSOL The Spanish oil major posted a 2.7 percent decline in second-quarter adjusted net profit on Thursday, hit by production shutdowns in Libya and higher exploration costs. BHP BILLITON PLC, ANGLO AMERICAN PLC The miners are looking to sell their jointly owned manganese assets portfolio in South Africa and Australia, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. STANDARD CHARTERED PLC The bank dismissed media rumours that its chairman was working on a succession plan amid shareholder pressure. BG GROUP The oil and gas firm is considering selling its largest operations in the North Sea for about 1 billion pounds ($1.70 billion), The Times reported on Thursday. KINGFISHER Europe's largest home improvements retailer said its markets in its second quarter, notably in June, had been slower than anticipated particularly in France and Poland. TATE & LYLE The sweetener maker said on Thursday it had missed its expectations for first quarter adjusted operating profit due to the severe weather in the United States and the unexpected shut down of one of its factories. REED ELSEVIER The Anglo-Dutch information provider said it expected another year of underlying earnings growth after reporting better-than-expected first-half results. BANKS Britain's markets regulator and a group of global banks are in talks to reach a first settlement in a currency-rigging probe, with a deal possible this year, Bloomberg reported. BSKYB BSkyB is set to confirm its expansion in Europe on Friday, the Financial Times reported. BANKINTER The mid-sized Spanish lender on Thursday posted a 31 percent rise in first half net profit from a year ago, building on a recovery in revenues as the country emerges from recession. NOKIA The Finnish telecoms gear maker reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit margin in its core networks unit due to cost cuts and said its expectations for full-year profitability have improved. TOMTOM The Dutch navigation equipment maker on Thursday raised its outlook after reporting a 15 percent rise in net profit as sales of its personal navigation and its sport devices held up well. EASYJET The low-cost airline said it was on track to grow annual profit by at least 14 percent assuming no further significant disruption over the next two months. TECHNIP The French oil services firm cut on Thursday its operating margin target for its onshore/offshore unit for this year and next, citing the possible impact of sanctions on Russia on the Yamal LNG project in Siberia. CLOSE BROTHERS GROUP The UK company said group outlook was unchanged after its loan book grew 8 percent over five months to 5.2 billion pounds. (Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Anupama Dwivedi and Alistair Smout)
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