AMERICAN MARKETS OUTLOOK: U.S. stock markets are expected to open a touch higher Thursday, as investors await comments from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Bernanke is to testify on the economic outlook to Congress' Joint Economic Committee at 1400 GMT. A string of economic data in recent days have shown stronger-than-expected growth.
"The view is generally that this testimony comes at an important time for the U.S. markets, with investors being shrouded in doubt about how the recent data will affect policy decisions," says Angus Campbell at FinSpreads.
FSW Europe analyst Anthony Hill said there are indications "that rate worries should resurface because of strong growth and inflationary pressures."
Thursday's economic data include jobless claims, the DJ-BTMU business barometer and money supply. Coca Cola, Comcast and Kellogg are among companies posting financial results.
FSW Europe is calling the Dow Jones Industrial Average to open up 5 points at 11,359, the S&P 500 up 3 points at 1774 and the Nasdaq up 5 points at 2338.
EUROPEAN MARKETS: European shares are mostly lower at midday. In London, the FTSE 100 is down 0.7% at 6059.50, as pressure from resource and energy shares offset gains by Vodafone, Aviva, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. In Frankfurt, the DAX is down 0.5% at 6075.03, amid losses by utilities and other heavyweight stocks following the release of first-quarter financial results. In Paris, the CAC is down 0.7% at 5215.35.
Bunds and gilts are sharply lower after comments by European Central Bank governor Nicholas Garganas hit the market. The June bund future is down 0.28 at 115.01, while the June gilt is down 0.19 at 109.17.
In the currency market, the dollar is mixed as the market looks to central banks, and to Bernanke's testimony in particular, for guidance as to where it should push currencies next. The dollar is flat at Y114.74, the euro is down at $1.2438 and the pound is down at $1.7835
SIEMENS 2Q NET UP 14%, EXPANDS MEDICAL OPS: German conglomerate Siemens AG (SI) posted a 14% rise in fiscal second-quarter net profit, lifted by solid performances at its industrial, medical and automotive businesses. (News Snap by Joon Knapen)
ASTRAZENECA 1Q PROFIT UP; BOOSTS OUTLOOK: Anglo-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) reported a rise in first-quarter profits and sales - driven by sales growth from its key drugs and continued cost controls - and upgraded its full-year forecasts. (News Snap by Elena Berton)
BOUYGUES BUYS INTO ALSTOM, GOVT EXITS WITH PROFIT: The French government has agreed to sell its 21% interest in Alstom (1022047.FR) to Bouygues (12050.FR), making good on its promise to pull out of the heavy-engineering giant after two years of state-backed convalescence. (News Snap by David Gauthier-Villars)
CREDIT SUISSE PLANS PRIVATE BANK UNITS MERGER: Credit Suisse Group (CSR) said it plans to merge its private banking subsidiaries into a single autonomous bank, a move which should bring annual synergies of around CHF100 million in net profit from 2008. (News Snap by Hans Schoemaker)
INSIGHT & ANALYSIS FROM DOW JONES NEWSWIRES:
=FOREX FOCUS: Last weekend's Group of Seven statement may yet signal a shift in currency market sentiment in the longer term. (By Nicholas Hastings)
=THE SKEPTIC: Is Clinton Cards in terminal decline? (By Howard Wheeldon)
=CHARTING EUROPE: June COMEX gold futures will likely soar to a new 25-year high within a matter of days after overshooting Tuesday's inside-day high at $638 on Wednesday. The next target the current 25-year high, $649, which is also April's high. (By Axel Rudolph)
STILL TO COME
0830/1230 US Apr 22 Jobless Claims
1000/1400 US March Conference Board Help-Wanted Index
1000/1400 US Apr 15 DJ-BTMU Business Barometer
1000/1400 US Fed Chmn Bernanke testifies on the
econ outlook before U.S. Congress
Joint Economic Committee
1030/1430 US Apr 21 US Energy Dept Natural Gas Stocks
1030/1430 US Fed Gov Olson speaks in Columbus,
1100/1500 US April Kansas City Fed Mfg Index
1200/1600 US March Chicago Fed Midwest Mfg Index
1315/1715 US Fed Gov Kohn speaks on business
capital spending in New York
1630/2030 US Apr 22 Money Supply
1930/2330 JPN Apr Tokyo CPI
1930/2330 JPN Mar Nationwide CPI
1930/2330 JPN Mar Household Spending
1930/2330 JPN Mar Jobless Rate
1950/2350 JPN Mar Retail Sales
1950/2350 JPN Mar Indus Production, prelim
Swiss Reinsurance Co. (RUKN.VX) said it has launched a $1 billion rights offer, as part of its capital-raising efforts to finance the $6.8 billion takeover of General Electric Co.'s (GE) insurance operations. (News Snap by Goran Mijuk)
Iberdrola SA (IBE.MC), Spain's second-largest electricity company, reported more than a 16% rise in net profit in the first quarter as international and renewable energy operations offset the lost income that resulted from regulatory changes. (News Snap by Andres Cala)
Unemployment in Germany fell a seasonally adjusted 40,000 in April compared with a rise of 30,000 in March, a partial rebound following the previous month's prolonged cold weather, the German Federal Labor Office said. (Data Snap by Jennifer Letki and Christine Popp)
Russian coal and steel group Evraz Group SA (EVR.LN) said its net profit for 2005 under International Financial Reporting Standards fell 23% to $905 million as higher input costs for iron ore and coking coal squeezed profit margins. (News Snap by Geoffrey T. Smith)
Iceland's largest bank, Kaupthing Bunadarbanki Hf. (KAUP.IC), posted a 69% rise in first-quarter net profit, boosted by the consolidation of Singer & Friedlander in the U.K., the sale of Baugur Group and significant gains in commission income and trading. (News Snap by Louise Nordstrom)
Svenska Cellulosa AB (SCA-B.SK), the Swedish producer of tissue and packaging, said its first-quarter net profit rose around 76% as sales volumes increased. (News Snap by Janina Pfalzer)
French telecom's equipment provider Alcatel (ALA) reported a 16% fall in net profit owing to one-off gains the previous year but said revenues rose, driven by growth at its fixed-line business. (News Snap by Nina Sovich)
German pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck KGaA (MRK.XE) Thursday reported soaring net profit for the first three months of the year, driven by strong sales of liquid crystals, and raised its 2006 outlook. (News Snap by Jan Hromadko)
German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer AG (BAY) reported an 8% decline in first quarter net profit, mainly due to strong comparatives. (News Snap by Gangolf Schrimpf)
Altana AG (AAA), the German pharmaceuticals and chemicals company, reported a 26% rise in first-quarter net profit, driven by sales of anti-stomach acid drug Pantoprazole. (News Snap by Anita Greil)
Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG (NVS) said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has accepted for standard review its new combination pill to treat high blood pressure. (News Snap by Anita Greil)
U.K. house prices rose only slightly in April following a jump in March, the Nationwide Building Society (NBS.YY) said. (Data Snap by Paul Hannon)
Swedish construction firm Skanska AB (SKA-B.SK) said net profit fell 39% in the first quarter, mainly because of smaller gains from property divestments than in the year-earlier period. (News Snap by Malin Rising).