European shares are seen opening largely unchanged with a negative bias on Thursday, as investors pause briefly for breath following two days of gains. With orders for U.S. durable goods orders falling by the most in three years in March, investors look forward to jobless claims data due out later in the day and Friday's GDP estimate for further insight into the health of the world's largest economy.
Asian markets are trading mostly higher after the Federal Reserve boosted its outlook for U.S. economic growth this year and reiterated its pledge to keep interest rates low until 2014.
The Federal Reserve left interest rates at near-zero levels and reiterated that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014. Fed Chairman Bernanke assured that all policy tools remain at the Fed's disposal, but analysts say the Fed's optimistic outlook takes additional asset purchases off the table barring a turn for the worse for the economy.
Closer home, confidence among British consumers climbed to its highest level in nine months in March as households turned less concerned about the economy and employment prospects, a survey by Nationwide Building Society showed. The consumer confidence index rose to 53 in March, the highest since June 2011, from 44 in February. Economists had forecast a slight fall to 43.
In corporate news, French automaker Renault said that its first quarter revenue fell 8.6 percent to 9.54 billion euros from 10.43 billion euros in the same quarter last year because of a very unfavorable European market.
PPR SA, a multinational holding company specializing in retail shops and luxury brands, posted strong sales of of 3.26 billion euros for the first quarter of 2012, driven by strong demand for luxury goods.
Technip SA backed its fiscal 2012 forecast after reporting higher profit for its first quarter on the back of strong revenue growth.
Fiat Industrial SpA, the truck and tractor unit spun off from Italian carmaker Fiat SpA, reported an increase in first-quarter profit on higher sales.
Alcatel-Lucent reported first-quarter net profit attributable to equity owners of 398 million euros or 0.14 euros per share versus loss of 10 million euros or breakeven per share last year.
German financial services giant Deutsche Bank posted a drop in first-quarter net income to 1.4 billion euros from 2.1 billion euros in the prior-year quarter and said it continues to pursue its strategy of reducing legacy risks and strengthening capital position.
Bayer said it is increasingly confident for the rest of 2012 after reporting first quarter net income of 1.05 billion euros, up from 684 million euros a year ago.
European shares rose sharply on Wednesday, extending the previous session's tentative recovery, as the euphoria over earnings helped the markets shrug off U.K.GDP data that indicated the country had fallen into recession.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks rose 1.7 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, gained 0.4 percent, while around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100, Switzerland's SMI, the German DAX and France's CAC 40 rose between 0.2 percent and 2 percent.
Likewise, U.S. shares rallied on Wednesday, as Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's reassurance that he's prepared to "do more" to boost the economy if necessary and better than expected quarterly results from tech giant Apple Inc., the world's largest publicly-traded company by market capitalization, boosted investor sentiment. The Dow rose 0.7 percent and the S&P 500 jumped 1.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 2.3 percent to post its biggest gain of the year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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