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European Stocks Seen Little Changed

European shares are seen opening largely unchanged on Thursday as investors pause for more definite signs of economic recovery. After a surprise profit by aluminum giant Alcoa, Google's earnings due later in the global day could offer more clues into whether firms were able to sustain their profit momentum despite rising costs.

Closer home, investors await an Italian bond auction later today for signs of stability in the euro zone. European Central Bank Executive Board member Benoit Coeure helped alleviate some recent investor concerns about Europe's debt problems by saying that the ECB will revive its bond-purchase program to lower Spain's borrowing costs.

In another significant event, Greece's interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced that the country will go to polls on May 6 for electing a new parliament, paving the way for elections that may not produce a definite result under the current circumstances.

Papademos announced the election date in a televised national address on Wednesday after he met his interim cabinet and officially requested President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve the Parliament for facilitating fresh elections.

Asian shares snapped recent steep losses and the euro edged higher, but the undertone remains cautious due to concerns over a cooling Chinese economy and slowing jobs growth in the United States. The World Bank today lowered China's growth estimate for 2012 to 8.2 percent from 8.4 percent and said that the prospects for a gradual adjustment of growth remain high. Investors are also aware of geopolitical risks as North Korea prepares for a widely-criticized rocket launch.

In domestic corporate news, Roche Holding AG confirmed its full-year outlook for 2012 and said that barring unforeseen events, it still expects low to mid-single-digit sales growth at constant exchange rates for the Group and the Pharmaceuticals Division in 2012.

Lighting solutions provider Royal Philips Electronics NV announced the appointment of Deborah DiSanzo as Chief Executive Officer of Philips Healthcare and member of its Executive Committee, with effect from May 1, 2012.

Volkswagen AG's luxury auto division Audi AG is likely to announce a deal next week to buy Italian luxury motorbike maker Ducati Motor Holding SpA, reports say.

European oil giant Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mitsubishi Corp., China National Petroleum Corp. and the Korea Gas Corp. are in final talks to jointly produce liquefied natural gas on Canada's western coast, the Nikkei reported.

French grocery retailer Carrefour SA reported that its first-quarter sales, including VAT with petrol, and at current exchange rates, were 22.5 billion euros, up 1.5 percent from last year.

European shares rose on Wednesday, clawing back some of the steep losses seen in the previous session, as stronger than expected earnings from U.S. aluminum company Alcoa helped to put investors in a positive mood. Also, ten-year yields on government bonds in both Spain and Italy edged down slightly, easing concerns about an escalation of the region's debt crisis.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks rose 0.9 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, finished 0.6 percent higher. Around Europe, the German DAX added a percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 gained 0.7 percent and France's CAC 40 rose 0.6 percent, while Switzerland's SMI dipped marginally.

U.S. stocks turned in a strong performance overnight, regaining some ground after recent sharp losses, as investors cheered aluminum giant Alcoa's quarterly results and the Fed's latest Beige Book report, which showed that the economy continued to expand at a moderate pace from mid-February through late March. Paring some early gains, the Dow and the S&P 500 ended up around 0.7 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.8 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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