European stocks may open higher on Friday, mirroring gains in Asia and commodity prices after a preliminary survey showed growth in China's manufacturing sector picked up in December, with improvement in areas such as new orders and employment.
The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index rose to a 14-month high of 50.9, marking its fifth straight monthly gain. Chinese shares are leading the way, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite climbing over 4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index is up 0.7 percent.
Japan's Nikkei index is edging down marginally after the closely watched Tankan survey of large manufacturers showed Japanese manufacturers are more pessimistic than expected since March 2010. The Japanese yen slipped to a nine-month low versus the dollar on hopes for more BOJ easing after Sunday's Lower House election.
Closer home, Standard and Poor's has cut the outlook on Britain's triple-A credit rating to 'negative', citing risks emanating from weak economic growth and rising general government debt. Revising the outlook on the unsolicited long-term ratings to 'negative' from 'stable', the ratings agency said there is a one-in-three chance that Britain could lose its top rating within the next two years, if the country's economic and fiscal performances weaken beyond current expectations.
Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service already have the U.K.'s government debt rating on 'negative' outlook.
In economic releases, investors await flash purchasing managers' survey results and final inflation data from euro area for further clues to the European economic outlook. Across the Atlantic, a pair of reports on consumer prices and industrial production could influence market sentiment.
In domestic corporate news, Linde AG has decided to purchase 36,408 shares of its common stock corresponding to around 0.02 percent of its capital.
Swiss banking giant UBS AG could end up paying a fine exceeding $1 billion to settle allegations related to manipulation of key global benchmark interest rates, media reports suggest.
AirAsia, the largest low-cost airline in Asia, has placed a new order for 100 more A320 Family aircraft with European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., or EADS. The order is estimated to be valued at $9.4 billion at list price.
Steel giant ArcelorMittal, Nunavut Iron Ore, Inc., a unit of Iron Ore Holdings, LP and a company in The Energy and Minerals Group; have agreed that Nunavut would increase its interest in Baffinland Iron Mines Corp(Baffinland) from 30 percent to 50 percent.
Telecom-equipment firm Alcatel-Lucent SA has secured a debt financing deal worth 1.6 billion euros or about $2.1 billion with Credit Suisse Group and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting people familiar with the matter.
ABB Group announced that it is repositioning its Power Systems business to secure consistent profitability.
European stocks finished in the red on Thursday, as worries over the lack of progress in U.S. budget negotiations outweighed optimism over the EU's landmark deal on banking supervision and the approval of the next payment to Greece on the completion of the government's debt buyback operation.
The Euro Stoxx 50 index of Eurozone bluechip stocks eased 0.1 percent and the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 0.3 percent, while benchmark indexes in France, the U.K. Germany and Switzerland fell between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent.
U.S. stocks came under selling pressure overnight, as lingering concerns about the looming fiscal cliff overshadowed a batch of largely upbeat economic data on retail sales and jobless claims. Separate reports showed that weekly jobless fell sharply to a near four-year low last week, while retail sales rose 0.3 percent in November from the previous month, erasing the previous month's decline. The Dow and the S&P 500 dropped about 0.6 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.7 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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