Tobacco Tops Rate-Watching Euro Markets
LONDON (Reuters) - Hopes of a big tobacco merger took the limelight in European markets Wednesday as investors grew cautious ahead of rate meetings by euro zone and British central banks.
Shares in French tobacco group Seita soared over 15 percent after French daily Le Figaro reported British tobacco group Gallaher Group PLC had made a merger approach.
Spanish tobacco group Tabacalera, which is in the process of merging with Seita, shot up 4.7 percent in Madrid. Gallaher shares rose 1.35 percent.
The euro held steady around $1.05 early in Europe Wednesday with upbeat economic data from the euro zone having little impact as traders said they had already priced a rate hike from the European Central Bank this week.
European government bonds were lower in early trade in a technical reaction to recent rises but dealers said the market should be quiet ahead of Thursday's meeting of the ECB council.
The ECB is widely expected to deliver the first rate rise in its short history and, until this becomes clear, market activity is expected to remain subdued.
Most analysts see the bank raising its key refinancing rate, which currently stands at 2.50 percent, by 25 or 50 basis points after recent indications the euro-zone economy is reviving.
Rates were also in focus in London where the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee meets Wednesday and is also expected to announce a rate rise Thursday.
European bourses opened barely changed after the Dow Jones index slumped more than 150 points following Europe's closed.
At 0922 GMT the pan-European Eurotop index of 300 shares was down 0.42 points or 0.03 percent at 1,342.72 while the narrower Euro Stoxx index of 50 blue chip euro zone shares was down 3.86 points or 0.10 percent at 3,919.28.
Among leading European blue-chip bourse indices, London's FTSE 100 was down 0.1 percent, Frankfurt's DAX was down 0.4 percent, and Paris's CAC was down 0.2 percent.
Shares in Celanese AG rose over six percent in Wednesday morning trade after the German chemical maker said BASF AG would buy its 50 percent stake in their Targor joint venture. BASF declined 0.8 percent.
BP Amoco Plc shares were steady after the Anglo-American oil group said late Tuesday it and the state of Alaska had agreed to resume stalled talks over the approval of the company's planned $26.8 billion takeover of Atlantic Richfield Co.
Dealing in Paris bourse newcomer Thomson Multimedia got off to a brisk start, with the consumer electronics group spun out of state-owned Thomson SA soaring 21 percent above its 21.50 euros initial offer price.
Shares in the world's largest IPO, Italian electricity giant Enel, dipped below their 4.3 euro privatization price in early trade on the Milan bourse Wednesday after making a dull debut Tuesday.
Enel shares were the most actively traded on the Milan bourse with 45 million shares changing hands after Tuesday's frenzy when 394 million shares traded for a value of 1.7 billion euros.
Dutch flag carrier KLM was up 2.8 percent despite posting a 57 percent drop in second quarter net profit and a 23 percent decline in operating income as it felt the effects of cut-throat competition on major routes.
S&P futures were up 3.7 points indicating a mildly positive opening on Wall Street.
The Dow Jones industrials average Tuesday slipped 66.67 points, or 0.63 percent, to 10,581.84, having been as much as 100 points higher late in Europe's trading day.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq closed up 13.98 points, or 0.47 percent, at 2,981.63. Although its close marked a new record, the index earlier had been whipped as high as 3,014 -- its first run-up past 3,000.
The dollar was within a quarter of a yen of six week lows near 103.50 yen hit in Asia, and was seen at risk of dropping to three and a half year lows around 103.20, in the wake of a report that Japan's economic stimulus package would be larger than previously expected.
The euro ignored a surge in Italy's October services index and a rise in the country's August industrial orders, just about managing to hold above chart support around $1.0480.
At 0922 GMT the December Bund future was down 0.29 points at 106, off a low of 105.98.
The benchmark 10-year cash Bund was yielding 5.099 percent.
December Brent crude oil was seen opening steady in London from $22.08 Tuesday where it settled after a 27 cents fall.
In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index closed down 78.51 points or 0.59 percent at 13,257.33. The Tokyo stock market was closed for a holiday.