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European Shares Seen Little Changed

4/18/2012 2:19 AM ET

European shares are seen opening largely unchanged on Wednesday, as investors pause for breath following the previous session's rally. That said, underlying sentiment could remain upbeat after strong corporate earnings helped U.S. stocks post their biggest gains in a month overnight. After the U.S. closing bell, IBM, Intel and Yahoo all reported earnings that beat Wall Street forecasts.

Asian markets are rising across the board, with key benchmark indexes in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan climbing 1-2 percent, as concerns about the euro zone zone crisis eased and the IMF raised its forecast for global economic growth by 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 percent in 2012.

On the macroeconomic front, the minutes of the Bank of England's latest monetary policy meeting and unemployment figures from the U.K. are scheduled to be released in the European session.

In corporate news, French hotel group Accor SA said it expects a recovery in hotel demand to continue in the second quarter after reporting a 4.5 percent increase in revenues for the first quarter on a like-for-like basis.

Energy Technique Plc said fourth-quarter sales from its operating subsidiary, Diffusion, increased 22 percent to £7.1 million from £5.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

BHP Billiton said that its production of iron ore and metallurgical coal for the third quarter increased 14 percent from last year, but output declined 8 percent from the preceding quarter due to bad weather and industrial disputes.

Swiss agrichemical company Syngenta AG reported first-quarter group sales of $4.3 billion, up 7 percent from $4.02 billion last year on a reported basis and 7 percent at constant exchange rates.

Pfizer Inc. is close to selling its baby formula business to Swiss food giant Nestle SA for $9 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

European shares rallied on Tuesday, as stronger-than-expected reading on German ZEW economic sentiment, firm demand at Spanish debt sales and a cautiously optimistic IMF outlook on the global economy eased recent worries over slowing economic growth.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks rallied 2.9 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, added 2 percent, while around Europe, Switzerland's SMI, the U.K.'s FTSE 100, the German DAX and France's CAC 40 rose between 1.2 percent and 2.7 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks rose sharply overnight, as encouraging corporate earnings from the likes of Goldman Sachs Group and Coca Cola and news of a successful Spanish bond auction helped traders shrug off disappointing U.S. economic data on housing starts and industrial production. The Dow ended up 1.5 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 1.8 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.6 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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