European Factors to Watch-Shares seen higher, focus on ECB
LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - European shares headed for a stronger open on Thursday, tracking gains in the United States and Asia, with improving U.S. economic outlook and expectations of further stimulus from the European Central Bank boosting sentiment. ECB President Mario Draghi will present the bank's updated forecasts for growth in output as well as inflation at a policy meeting later in the day. The ECB could extend a scheme to buy rebundled debt to purchasing corporate bonds, but it is unlikely to announce any radical immediate move such as printing money to buy government bonds. "We will be looking at the exact wording of the introductory statement," Credit Agricole said in a note. "If the reference to sovereign debt purchases appears in the statement, then it would be the clearest sign that the ECB is ready to deliver sooner rather than later, probably with a comfortable majority." The Federal Reserve's vice chair Stanley Fischer was quoted as saying in an Italian newspaper that the ECB should follow the example of the U.S. central bank and buy government bonds to prop up the tottering euro zone economy. At 0733 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were 0.2 to 0.3 percent higher. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 0.5 percent higher at 1,399.97 points after climbing to its highest level in more than two months in the previous session. The index has gained 15 percent since a one-year low in mid-October. In the United States, the Dow and S&P 500 share indexes closed at record highs on Wednesday after data showed U.S. services sector rose more than expected in November. Japanese stocks jumped to a near 7-1/2-year high on Thursday. On the macroeconomic front, focus will be on U.S. initial jobless claims data, a day after due at 1330 GMT. In France, unemployment rate rose to 10.4 percent in the third quarter from a revised 10.1 percent in the previous quarter, data published by the INSEE national statistics office showed on Thursday. Investors' focus will also be on energy stocks after Brent crude oil prices rose above $70 a barrel, gaining nearly a percent along with U.S. futures, as a fall in crude stockpiles in the United States supported prices. The Investment Management Association (IMA) said on Thursday that Allianz Global Investors, Aviva, Friends Life, Legal and General, Prudential and Standard Life intend to make investments of around 9 billion pounds in private placements and other direct lending to UK companies. COMPANY NEWS LAFARGE Lafarge and its Swiss peer Holcim are set to win the European Union's approval for their merger deal to create the world's biggest cement maker, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday. LUFTHANSA Pilots at Lufthansa are on strike on long-haul and cargo flights on Thursday. Lufthansa has said it would cancel about half of long-haul flights and a third of cargo flights. CLUB MED The board of Club Med on Wednesday reiterated its support for the bid presented by Chinese billionaire Guo Guongchang, owner of Chinese group Fosun . FERROVIAL, FCC, BANKIA Spanish infrastructure firm Ferrovial has withdrawn from the process to acquire the concessions company Globalvia, controlled by FCC and Bankia, Expansion said on Thursday. CENTRICA Britain's energy regulator Ofgem has fined the country's largest energy supplier 11.1 million pounds ($17.4 million) for failing to meet energy efficiency obligations by a 2012 deadline. GLAXOSMITHKLINE The drugmaker said on Wednesday it would shed "several hundred" U.S. commercial jobs and a similar number of research positions as it restructures operations in its biggest market, where drug sales are flagging. AREVA Areva's Luc Oursel, who resigned last month as chief executive and chairman for health reasons, has died, the nuclear energy group said on Wednesday. SKY Pay-TV group Sky said on Thursday it had agreed to sell a controlling stake in Sky Bet to CVC Capital Partners in a move which values the online betting business at 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion). TUI TRAVEL British travel group TUI Travel, reporting its last set of annual results before it merges with Germany's TUI AG, said profit rose 11 percent, beating forecasts, and the coming tie-up would accelerate long-term growth. ENI Plans by Italian oil major Eni for major asset sales to help fund exploration and its dividend payments have hit problems due to diving oil and gas prices, sources say. SOCIETE DES PRODUITS MARNIER LAPOSTOLLE Societe des Produits Marnier Lapostolle, the company behind spirits brand Grand Marnier, denied press reports it planned to sell the control of the company. ALSTOM It will take more than the abrupt cancellation of a high-speed train deal with Mexico to derail China Railway Construction Corp's ambitions to become a global force in transport projects and take on the likes of Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier. ALLIANZ Pacific Investment Management Co posted net outflows of $12.59 billion across its open-ended funds in November, down considerably from $48.3 billion of cash withdrawals the previous month, according to Morningstar data on Wednesday. THYSSENKRUPP The industrial group reached an agreement with unions over cutbacks at its Acciai Speciali Terni (AST) stainless steel plant in central Italy. VOLKSWAGEN Premium carmaker Audi aims to continue to expand its network of dealership in Russia despite being hit by the weaker economic outlook and the weak rouble there, Chief Executive Rupert Stadler told Sueddeutsche Zeitung. HOCHTIEF Hochtief's Australian business Leighton won a contract worth more than $150 million to build a glasshouse for growing tomatoes for Sundrop Farms. LUXOTTICA, INTEL The luxury eyewear maker is joining forces with U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp to develop glasses that combine its top fashion brands with technology that could allow wearers to access information about their health or location. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0719 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,074.33 0.38 % 7.78 NIKKEI 17887.21 0.94 % 166.78 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 473.82 0.62 % 2.92 EUR/USD 1.2297 -0.11 % -0.0013 USD/JPY 119.95 0.15 % 0.1800 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.280 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 0.751 -- 0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,204.00 -0.43 % -$5.19 US CRUDE $67.97 0.88 % 0.59 MACROECONOMIC EVENTS (GMT) 1200 GB Bank of England bank Rate 1245 EZ ECB rate 1330 US Initial Jobless Claims > ASIA CHEERED BY U.S. ECONOMIC RESILIENCE, EURO STRUGGLES > CYCLICALS LEAD WALL ST HIGHER; DOW, S&P END AT RECORDS > NIKKEI HITS NEAR 7-1/2-YEAR HIGH ON WEAK YEN, US ECONOMIC OPTIMISM > TREASURIES-PRICES MOSTLY STEADY AS LONG BOND GAINS > EURO ON THE DEFENSIVE AS ECB EYED; DOLLAR SETS 7-YEAR HIGH VS YEN > GOLD EASES ON DOLLAR STRENGTH AHEAD OF ECB, U.S. JOBS DATA > COPPER EDGES UP ON OIL, CHINA SERVICE SECTOR DATA > BRENT HEADS ABOVE $70 AFTER U.S. CRUDE STOCKS DROP Europe bourses in 2014: (link.reuters.com/pad95v) Asset performance in 2014: (link.reuters.com/rav46v) (Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Alistair Smout)
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