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European Markets Firmly In Positive Territory

The European markets are moderate to notably higher in afternoon trading Tuesday, as sentiment in the region was boosted by better-than-expected German economic sentiment data, a day after the second bailout package for Greece received its final go-ahead. The major Asian markets closed in positive territory and the U.S. index futures indicate a higher opening ahead of some key economic events.

Eurozone finance ministers late Monday gave their final nod to a second bailout package for Greece after the country completed a debt swap deal with its private creditors last week. At the same time, the ministers said Spain may need larger consolidation effort to attain the deficit reduction target in 2013.

The euro area finance ministers urged Spain to take deeper fiscal cuts to bring the deficit below 3 percent of GDP by 2013. "We discussed the fiscal situation in Spain. We noted the sizable overrun in the budget execution of 2011, which requires a larger consolidation effort in 2012," the ministers said.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks is advancing 1.12 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, is gaining 1.17 percent.

The German DAX is climbing 1.04 percent and the French CAC 40 is adding 1.09 percent. The UK's FTSE 100 is adding 0.99 percent and Switzerland's SMI is rising 0.75 percent.

In Frankfurt, MAN is leading the gainers by adding 1.8 percent. BMW is losing 0.9 percent, while Volkswagen and Daimler are in negative territory. BMW said it is targeting a worldwide sales volume of over two million vehicles in 2016, significantly earlier than originally planned for 2020.

Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank are advancing about 1.5 percent each.

Munich Re is rising 1.5 percent. The insurer reported a higher profit for the fourth quarter.

Those making notable gains include HeidelbergCement, Fresenius Medical Care and Deutsche Boerse.

Nemetschek is gaining 2.1 percent after Goldman Sachs raised the stock to "Buy" from "Neutral."

In Paris, Credit Agricole is advancing 2.9 percent and BNP Paribas is up 1.5 percent. Societe Generale is gaining 1.2 percent after HSBC cut the stock to "Neutral" from "Overweight."

Veolia Environnement is climbing 2.9 percent and Michelin is advancing 2.6 percent.

Lafarge and Saint Gobain are gaining 2.5 percent each, while Vallourec is rising about 2 percent.

Peugeot is climbing 2 percent while Renault is modestly down.

In London, AstraZeneca is up 0.1 percent. The company filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court asking to overturn the U.S. regulator's denial of a bid to delay the entry of generic versions of its antipsychotic blockbuster Seroquel.

BHP Billiton is gaining 1.9 percent and Rio Tinto is rising 2 percent. Vedanta is adding 4.5 percent.

Standard Life is up modestly after reporting a lower pre-tax profit for the year.

Prudential is gaining 1.3 percent. The insurer said it has made a positive start to 2012 and is well positioned to deliver continued relative outperformance in the medium-term, despite an uncertain macroeconomic environment.

Lenders are notably hgher. Barclays is climbing 1.4 percent, HSBC is up 1.8 percent, Lloyds Banking is climbing 2 percent and Standard Chartred is rising 1.7 percent.

Antofagasta is declining 3.6 percent. The company's total dividend for 2011 is sharply down at 44 cents, compared to 116 cents paid in 2010, reflecting a 76 percent drop in proposed special dividend. The Chilean miner also said copper prices in the short-term are likely to remain volatile.

G4S is losing 1.5 percent. The security firm reported a lower pre-tax profit for the year.

UniCredit is gaining 2.9 percent in Milan. Exane BNP raised the stock to "Outperform" from "Neutral."

In economic news, the Zew Institute released the results of its German economic sentiment survey, showing that the indicator measuring economic sentiment improved to 22.3 in March from 5.4 in February. Economists had expected the index to come in at 10.

U.K.'s trade deficit widened to 7.5 billion pounds in January from 7.2 billion pounds a month ago, the Office for National Statistics said. The shortfall was smaller than an expected 7.9 billion pounds deficit.

Across Asia/Pacific, markets ended mostly higher. Australia's All Ordinaries gained 1.13 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose about 1 percent.

The Bank of Japan decided to expand its loan scheme aimed at supporting economic growth by 2 trillion yen, following the conclusion of its March monetary policy meeting. At the same time, the central bank kept its monetary policy unchanged. The Nikkei 225 index edged up about 0.1 percent.

In the U.S., the Commerce Department is set to release the retail sales report for February at 8.30 am ET. Economists estimate a 1.2 percent increase in retail sales and a 0.8 percent increase in retail sales that exclude autos.

The Federal Open Market Committee is scheduled to begin a 1-day meeting to discuss the near term direction of monetary policy. Economists do not expect any material change in the central bank's stance.

The U.S. index futures point to a higher open on Wall Street. In the previous session, the major averages eventually ended mixed, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq posting a modest loss. While the Nasdaq edged down by 0.2 percent, the Dow rose 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 crept up 0.02 percent.

In the commodity space, crude for April delivery is adding $0.44 to $106.78 per barrel while April gold is losing $5.2 to $1694.6 a troy ounce.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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