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European Shares Seen Little Changed

3/23/2012 3:04 AM ET

European shares may open broadly unchanged on Friday, as heightened concerns about a slowdown in the global economy could keep investors on tenterhooks. Asian stock markets are mixed on concerns about the global growth outlook, while crude and copper are rebounding after sharp falls in the previous session.

Key benchmark indexes in China and Hong Kong are down over a percent each, as lower-than-expected earnings from Agricultural Bank of China and China Unicom (Hong Kong), rekindled concerns about the extent of the economic slowdown the the world's second-largest economy.

Closer home, the French government has raised its 2012 growth estimate to 0.7 percent from 0.5 percent previously after national statistics bureau Insee updated its forecasts.

In economic releases, confidence among the U.K.'s consumers declined unexpectedly in February as they turned more pessimistic about the economy's prospects amid rising unemployment and tight austerity, the latest survey by the Nationwide Building Society showed. The consumer confidence index fell to 44 from 47 in January.

Business confidence survey data from France and mortgage approvals from the U.K. are the other statistical reports due in the European session. Across the Atlantic, investors will pay attention to a report on new home sales for further clues to the state of the world's largest economy.

In domestic corporate news, UBS AG stated that Andrea Orcel, currently Executive Chairman of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, will join UBS and jointly with Carsten Kengeter lead the Investment Bank as co-CEO, effective 1 July 2012.

Andritz AG said it has received shareholder nod to split the shares in a ratio of 1:2, with the corresponding adjustment of the share price planned to take place on April 23.

An appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling that cancer drugs Rituxan and Avastin of Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG's Genentech unit and biotechnology firm Biogen Idec Inc. do not infringe two patents of French drug maker Sanofi SA .

Lloyds Banking Group Plc said that it remains on track to complete the transfer of the Verde business before the end of 2013 in line with the EC mandated timescale.

Swedish real estate firm Castellum AB said it has elected Charlotte Strömberg as new chairman of the board of directors, succeeding Jan Kvarnström who has decided to resign after serving 17 years in that post.

Credit Suisse said Peter Weibel will be resigning from the board of both Credit Suisse Group AG and Credit Suisse AG as of the next Annual General Meeting on April 27.

European shares fell for a fourth consecutive session on Thursday, notching up their longest losing streak in four months, as gloomy news on eurozone manufacturing and service sector activity sparked fears that the economy may have fallen back into recession.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks fell 1.5 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 1.1 percent, while around Europe, Switzerland's SMI, the U.K.'s FTSE 100, the German DAX and France's CAC 40 ended down between 0.6 percent and 1.6 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks ended mostly lower overnight, as disappointing manufacturing data from both China and Europe overshadowed another batch of upbeat U.S. economic data on weekly jobless claims and the Conference Board's leading economic indicators. The Dow fell 0.6 percent, the tech-heavy drifted down 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 dropped 0.7 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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