Q4 earnings: focus on cost control
Tech, telecom stocks push STOXX lower
German business morale brightens further in Jan
Rheinmetall hits record high
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Q4 EARNINGS: FOCUS ON COST CONTROL (1200 GMT)
As European companies have started reporting their Q4 results, equity investors are on the watch for insights into management teams' expectations for 2023 as they position for an economic slowdown.
Costs for euro zone companies have surged last year and in the twelve months to November they grew by 27%, although that has come off from a record growth rate of 43.3% recorded in August, according to Eurostat.
As corporate bills rise,analysts interviewed by Reuters are increasingly saying they will focus on what European companies will have to say about cost cut plans.
"We don’t think companies are now able to fully rely on pricing to be able to control their margins... slimming down through cost control and restructuring also needs to happen," William Mileham, Equity Analyst at Mirabaud.
"There will also be some discussions around re-shoring and bringing supply chains closer to the sales point," he adds.
Revenue at Europe's largest companies is expected to have risen by just 0.9% in the fourth quarter, Refinitiv I/B/E/S data showed on Tuesday, down from 27.4% in the third quarter and the slowest growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2020.
Analysts said this earnings season will likely show whether some recent optimism about the economy is grounded in reality.
NEGATIVE U.S. INFLATION IN 2023? (1051 GMT)
Hawkish central bank officials on both sides of the Atlantic are still discussing the need for more monetary tightening, but some investors reckon that inflation will continue to surprise on the downside, at least in the U.S..
"The Fed will likely be surprised by actual data out -performing their projections on inflation," says Stephen Jen, an economist at Eurizon. "In other words, the Fed is now ahead of the inflation curve."
"High U.S. inflation induced by the 15%-GDP worth of U.S.' fiscal stimulus would prove to be temporary and eventually be arrested by low international goods prices, which are dictated by China," he argues.
"Indeed, goods price inflation is falling fast in the U.S. and could turn outright negative this year, I suspect."
According to Jen, "most of the structural reasons (demographics, globalisation, and technology) that were universally cited as reasons for the multi-decade disinflation in the world have not been fundamentally disturbed by the pandemic."
AIRLINES AND DEFENCE DEFY STOXX WEAKNESS (1003 GMT)
European shares got off to a weak start, with data showing German investor morale turning positive for first time since the Ukraine war failing to give any impulse, a sign that the good macro news may already be in the prices.
Attention was elsewhere. Solid numbers from EasyJet EZJ.L set its shares for their best day since March 2022, up 10%, while lifting the whole sector .SXTP to fresh 11-month highs, as markets warm to the industry's improving outlook.
Also defying the broader weakness are defence stocks. Germany looks set to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow other countries such as Poland to do the same to help Kyiv fight off Russia's invasion.
Leopard maker Rheinmetall RHMG.DE rose by as much as 4% at one point to a new record high, while aerospace and defence stocks .SXPARO neared their highest in almost 3 years.
Tech .SX8P was a drag, tracking Nasdaq losses, following an disappointing cloud guidance from Microsoft. A mixed outlook and decreasing net bookings from ASML ASML.AS sent shares in Europe's biggest tech company down more than 1% following a good run this year. A weak healthcare .SXDP sector also weighed.
The STOXX 600 was last down 0.6%.
EUROPE EYES FLAT START, EARNINGS TAKE CENTRE STAGE (0747 GMT)
Stock futures are roughly flat in Europe, shortly before the cash-market open, signalling a steady start as investors parse signals from the earnings season after a new year rally that has been driven by economic optimism.
EuroSTOXX50 STXEc1 futures were down 0.1% and FTSE 100 contracts were inching just marginally higher. Nasdaq NQc1 futures fell 0.6% after Microsoft MSFT.O guided to cloud revenues below analyst expectations, a possible negative readacross for German software maker SAP SAPG.DE.
Shares in ASML ASML.AS, Europe's largest technology company, are seen rising after the supplier of equipment to chip makers reported better-than-expected earnings.
In the UK, traders are calling a positive for airline EasyJet EZJ.L and insurance group Aviva AV.L following results, while French train maker Alstom ALSO.PA looks set to benefit from strong order numbers.
On a downbeat note, fragrance maker Givaudan GIVN.S and electrical equipment maker Landis LANDI.S were both seen falling in Zurich following results.
RUNNING OUT OF BREATH (0656 GMT)
After a strong start to the year, fuelled by hopes that the outlook for the world economy was not shaping up as bad as expected a few months ago, stocks are finally taking a breather.
Asian equities held steady on Wednesday near seven-month highs after a mixed session on Wall Street.
On the corporate front, Barclays BARC.L CEO C.S. Venkatakrishnan appointed former Credit Suisse CSGN.S dealmaker Cathal Deasy as co-head of investment banking with a view to grow the business and an eye for succession.
And a group of minority shareholders that appealed against the French government's full nationalisation of energy giant EDF EDF.PA dropped the motion on the eve of the hearing.
On a thin day for economic data, focus will be on U.K. producer prices and the German IFO.
European stock futures dipped 0.3%, indicating a weaker start for markets, while U.S. stock futures EScv1 shed 0.5%.
Revenue at Europe's largest companies is expected to have risen by just 0.9% in the fourth quarter, Refinitiv I/B/E/S data showed on Tuesday.
The forecast, which tracks companies listed on the pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX benchmark index, represents a drop from last week when analysts expected revenue growth of 4%.
Investment strategists at Standard Chartered say it is time to fade the rally seen in European stocks and the euro since the lows of September.
They say an unusually warm winter has allayed fears of wide-spread energy shortages and rationing in Europe. China's economic reopening has been another tailwind for European exporters' prospects.
But they outlined many challenges for European equities, including stretched technicals and an increasingly hawkish central bank policy.
Meanwhile, Microsoft MSFT.O kicked off the U.S. tech season with a sobering outlook and forecast that third-quarter revenue in its cloud business would come just shy of market forecasts.
The 2% increase in the last quarter's revenue, the slowest in more than five years, signalled tougher times for tech companies just as Apple AAPL.O and Google-parent Alphabet GOOGL.O are due to report earnings next week.
Key developments that could influence markets on Wednesday:
Economic data: U.K. December producer prices, Germany January Ifo
European results: Christian Dior
U.S. results: IBM, AT&T, Boeing, Whirlpool
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