PARIS, Nov 24 (Reuters) - European stocks were set to open slightly higher on Monday, adding to Friday's sharp rally sparked by dovish comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and a surprise interest rate cut in China.
At 0725 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were up 0.3-0.5 percent.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares surged 2.1 percent on Friday, hitting a two-month high, with Italy's MIB index surging 3.9 percent in its biggest one-day rise since mid-2012, led by a sharp rebound in banking shares.
The prospect of further measures from the ECB to support the region's economy continued to weigh on the euro on Monday, falling to near 28-month lows below $1.24 against the dollar.
The single currency has fallen nearly 12 percent since early May, a slide seen as positive for European exporters' earnings.
On Friday, China cut interest rates, stepping up efforts to support the world's second-biggest economy as it heads towards its slowest expansion in nearly a quarter of a century, saddled under a mountain of debt.
Sources involved in policy-making told Reuters that China's leadership and central bank are ready to cut interest rates again and also loosen lending restrictions, concerned that falling prices could trigger a surge in debt defaults, business failures and job losses.
On the M&A front, British insurer Aviva said on Friday it had agreed terms on a possible deal to buy rival Friends Life for 5.6 billion pounds ($8.8 billion) as British pension reforms put pressure on insurance companies to find new business.
Canadian buyout firm Onex Corp said it would buy Swiss packaging group SIG Combibloc Group AG for up to 3.57 billion euros ($4.43 billion).
Global M&A activity in 2014 has hit a level not seen in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data, with a flurry of deals in the struggling oil and gas sector as a plunge in crude oil prices below $80 has sparked the biggest consolidation wave in the sector since the 70's.
Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v)
Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-ASIA STOCKS UP AS CHINA, EUROPE STEP UP STIMULUS > US STOCKS-WALL ST ENDS AT RECORDS ON CENTRAL BANK ACTION > FOREX-EURO WOBBLES ON CHANCE OF MORE ECB ACTION, AUSSIE PERKIER > PRECIOUS-GOLD FIRM NEAR 3-WEEK HIGH ON CHINA RATE CUT > METALS-LONDON METALS PARE CHINA-RATE CUT INSPIRED GAINS > BRENT REMAINS ABOVE $80 AFTER CHINA RATE CUTS, AHEAD OF OPEC MEETING
A tougher approach to bank supervision by the ECB trying to iron out accounting "discretionalities" could leave Italian banks with a further capital shortfall of 16 billion euros, La Repubblica said on Saturday. Mediobanca MDBI.MI could come under fire since its 13.4 percent stake in insurer Generali accounts alone for around 58 percent of its market cap, the paper said.
Italy's biggest retail bank is considering making a bid for Coutts, the wealth management arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, the Financial Times said on Sunday.
UniCredit has resumed talks with US fund Lone Star on the sale of its debt collector unit UCCMB as negotiations with a consortium made of Fortress Investment Group and Prelios are stalling, sources said on Friday.
Telecom Italia will examine a possible tie-up between its Brazilian unit Tim Participacoes and local group Oi, it said as it announced the sale of mobile phone masts for more than 900 million euros.
Spanish bank BBVA has sold 1.7 billion euros of bad loans, at a 98 percent discount, to Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE, booking around 50 million euros in capital gains, Expansion reported on Saturday, citing financial sources.
British insurer Aviva said on Friday it had agreed terms on a possible deal to buy rival Friends Life for 5.6 billion pounds ($8.8 billion) as British pension reforms put pressure on insurance companies to find new business.
The group says it is on track to deliver full year 2014 net profit towards lower end of US$580 million to US$600 million range provided in previous guidance.
Gap Inc has struck a deal with Europe's largest dedicated online fashion retailer Zalando to sell its core brand from next May, hoping to reach more consumers, particularly in markets where it has no physical stores.
The global miner stepped up its cost-cutting plans on Monday as the world's biggest miner battles a sharp slide in iron ore, coal and oil prices, and said the unloved assets it is spinning off are still making money despite the rout.
BHP Billiton is laying the groundwork for a dramatic rise in copper production in a drive to buffer its exposure to sagging iron ore, oil and coal markets.
Spanish property investment company Hispania confirmed early on Saturday a takeover offer for Realia valuing the real estate group at around 151 million euros, just over two thirds of its market valuation.
BANKIA Nationalised lender Bankia will see net profit top 1 billion euros by the end of next year, Europa Press reported on Sunday, citing financial sources.
A2A The city of Brescia, which controls A2A alongside of the city of Milan, is planning to go ahead with the sale of a 2.5 percent stake of the utility before the end of the year, Corriere della Sera said on Sunday.
The CEO of the troubled yellow pages group Vincenzo Santelia said in Sunday's Il Sole 24 Ore he was upbeat about getting the go ahead to convert debt into equity by the end of the year and start 2015 without debt. Santelia said the company had 160 million euros of cash, around 75 million of which was to pay creditors. The rest is to relaunch the company whose future is online, he said.
Auto supplier Continental on Friday said it is reviewing whether to close its factory in Gifhorn, Germany, which makes electric motors and hydraulic braking systems, because of a lack of customer orders.
Germany is working on a new law to force energy companies to shut down several more coal-fired power plants as it tries to reach ambitious climate goals, a document seen by Reuters showed on Sunday.
Merck and takeover target Sigma-Aldrich withdrew their HSR act notification on Nov. 17 to give the U.S. Federal Trade Commission additional time beyond the 30-day HSR act waiting period to conduct its antitrust review of the planned tie-up.
The steel and engineering group would consider a sale of its submarine business under certain conditions, CEO Heinrich Hiesinger told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
The auto maker is on track to reach its goal of a pretax profit of 8 percent of sales by 2018, German weekly Wirtschaftswoche reported on Saturday.
Syngenta said on Monday its cost-cutting programme should reap $265 million in savings next year as part of its long-term plan to boost profitability.
A U.S. judge accepted Credit Suisse's CSGN.VX guilty plea to end a criminal case accusing it of helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes, and ordered the bank to pay roughly $1.8 billion in fines and restitution.
Natixis' head of financial institutions and public sector in the Middle East has resigned, the French bank confirmed to Reuters on Sunday.
CREDIT AGRICOLE Credit Agricole's revenue from its French retail banking business will pick up in the second quarter of 2015, the bank's chief financial officer said on Friday. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Atul Prakash)