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European Shares Poised For Lower Opening

2/23/2012 2:19 AM ET

European shares are set to open lower on Thursday, weighed down by mixed earnings results and concerns about slowing global growth. Asian markets are subdued as weak manufacturing data from Europe and China signaled slowing global economic growth and Hewlett-Packard, the world's No. 1 computer maker, reported lower quarterly net profit and revenue.

Crude futures dropped from a nine-month high after a report released by the American Petroleum Institute showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose much more than expected last week.

A temporary rise in crude oil prices would not prompt a shift in monetary policy, Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa reportedly told lawmakers today. Shirakawa reiterated that the BoJ will continue powerful monetary easing until 1 percent inflation is foreseen.

In corporate news, BHP Billiton announced that it has planned to temporarily suspend production at its TEMCO manganese alloy production facility in Tasmania, Australia by mid-March because of higher costs, a strong local currency and low prices.

Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International AG reported a 11 percent fall in consolidated net profit for 2011, hurt by higher taxes and a write-down of the value of its Ukrainian subsidiary.

Belgian biopharmaceutical company Ablynx announced consolidated results for the year ending 31 December 2011, with loss attributable to equity holders widening to EUR 43.90 million from EUR 24.48 million last year.

French specialty tube maker Vallourec said it anticipates moderate growth in power generation sales in 2012, with nuclear power representing a higher proportion of total sales.

Oil company Total SA and its units have agreed to pay $15 million to settle U.S. allegations that they knowingly underpaid royalties on natural gas from federal and Indian leases, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Societe Generale's corporate and investment banking division announced the appointment of Diony Lebot as CEO for Western Europe.

Commerzbank AG plans to exchange selected hybrid capital instruments, subordinated debt securities and other capital instruments into shares as part of its capital management. Separately, the German lender reported fourth-quarter profit of €316 million, up from prior year's €257 million, aided by a positive one-off effect from the repurchase of hybrid equity instruments.

The European Commission is considering extending an agreement that bans Commerzbank AG from making any acquisitions beyond April of this year, Handelsblatt reported, citing unidentified government and finance sources.

Allianz SE raised its 2012 operating profit outlook to 8.2 billion euros, plus/minus 0.5 billion euros, saying it remains confident about strong business opportunities.

Swiss Reinsurance reported 2011 profit of $2.63 billion compared to last year's $863 million.

Franco-Belgian lender Dexia reported full-year 2011 a net loss of 11.64 billion euros or 5.97 euros per share versus profit of 723 million euros or 0.37 euros per share a year ago.

Crédit Agricole SA posted a bigger-than-estimated fourth-quarter net loss Group share of 3.07 billion, hit by restructuring costs and higher provisions against bad loans at its Greek business.

Deutsche Telekom AG posted a wider fourth-quarter 2011 net loss of 1.34 billion euros compared with 514 million euros a year earlier.

European stocks declined on Wednesday on fears about Greece's future after Fitch said a Greek default is "highly likely" in the near term despite a bailout deal. Disappointing economic data also kept investors in a jittery mood.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, fell around 0.9 percent each. Around Europe, the German DAX lost 0.9 percent, France's CAC 40 shed half a percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent and Switzerland's SMI dropped 0.7 percent.

U.S. stocks posted modest losses overnight, snapping three days of gains, as disappointing earnings from computer maker Dell and downbeat reports on European business activity and Chinese manufacturing weighed on markets.

Traders also reacted to news that Fitch Ratings downgraded Greece's credit rating further into junk status. The Dow edged down 0.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost half a percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.3 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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