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European Shares Seen Opening Higher On Growth Optimism

European shares are seen opening higher on Monday, mirroring firm Asian cues as economic data showed sales at major South Korean department stores rose last month and New Zealand consumer confidence improved in the first three months of the year, bolstering the global economic outlook.

With measures taken to fight financial woes in Europe and the U.S. starting to pay off, the global economy is on a path to recovery, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said in a speech on Sunday. But the "optimism should not give us a sense of comfort or lull us into a false sense of security," she cautioned.

The euro remains steady against its most counterparts after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the European finance ministers have discussed "combination possibilities" for the permanent and the temporary rescue funds ahead of a March 30 meeting in Copenhagen.

Copper is edging lower while benchmark oil futures are trading slightly higher above $107 per barrel, extending the previous session's gains, supported by continued concerns over a potential supply disruption from Iran.

In economic releases, U.K. house prices continue to rise in March, as first time buyers rushed to avail the stamp duty exemption, a survey carried out by Rightmove showed. Asking prices of property for sale grew 1.6 percent month-over-month in the month following the 4.1 percent increase in February. In the first quarter, house prices were up 4.9 percent, marking the largest increase since 2004.

Separately, data from a survey by Markit Economics showed that the household finance index in the United Kingdom, which is designed to anticipate changing consumer behavior, decreased at a faster pace in March. The headline index dropped to 37.8 in the month from 38.7 in February, with an index reading below 50 indicating deterioration in sentiment.

In corporate news, British energy giant BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc are vying to acquire a 20 percent stake in Italian oil and gas giant Eni S.p.A.'s gas field in Mozambique and to partner it in drilling, the Independent reported. French oil company Total SA is also said to be in the fray for buying the stake.

Package delivery company United Parcel Service, Inc. and Dutch rival TNT Express N.V. jointly announced that they reached agreement on a recommended all-cash offer of 9.50 euros per ordinary share for TNT Express.

ArcelorMittal plans to boost its iron-ore output in Brazil by 65 percent to 7.1 million metric tons next year as it strives for self-sufficiency in making steel, the Bloomberg quoted Sebastiao Costa Filho, the head of the company's mining business in Brazil, as saying in a phone interview.

San Francisco-based private equity firm Vista Equity Partners is planning to make a 1.3 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) offer for U.K.-based banking software maker Misys Plc, another Bloomberg report said.

U.K. telecommunications firm BT Group Plc plans to spend up to GBP 1.5 billion in an effort to tackle the shortfall in its pension fund, the Sunday Times reported without citing sources.

Vodafone Group Plc may save £1 billion in taxes if its bid for Cable & Wireless Worldwide Plc succeeds, the Sunday Times reported separately.

European stocks rose to 8-month highs on Friday as optimism over the recovery in the U.S. economy and abating sovereign debt fears kept risk appetite intact. The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks rose 0.6 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, gained 0.4 percent, while around Europe, Switzerland's SMI, the German DAX, France's CAC 40 and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended up between 0.1 percent and 0.4 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks ended largely unchanged on Friday as traders seemed reluctant to make any significant moves following the recent rally, which has driven the major averages to multi-year highs.

On the macroeconomic front, data showed that U.S. consumer prices rose the most in 10 months in February, driven mostly by higher gasoline prices, while industrial production was unchanged and consumer sentiment dipped in early March. The S&P 500 edged up 0.1 percent, but the Dow slid 0.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq edged down 1.1 points or less than a tenth of a percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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