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Europe Stocks to Open Flat; Irish Stress Tests Eyed

European stocks were indicated to open flat on Thursday after ending the previous day at a three-week high, with investors watching for the results of Irish bank stress tests, due to be released later in the day.

A trader sits in front of a board displaying Germany's share index DAX at the stock exchange in Frankfurt/Munich, western Germany.
Martin Oeser | AFP | Getty Images
A trader sits in front of a board displaying Germany's share index DAX at the stock exchange in Frankfurt/Munich, western Germany.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares closed0.7 percent higher at 1,133.61 points, its highest closing level since March 9, with investor sentiment boosted by a US jobs report which showed further signs of recovery.

The UK's FTSE 100 index was indicated to rise seven points to 5,955 Thursday , while Germany's DAX was set to open three points up at 7,060 points, and France's CAC index was shown four points higher at 4,028, according to BGC Partners.

FTSE 100 index is up 0.81 percent so far this quarter, while the DAX index is up 2.06 percent since the beginning of the year, and the CAC index has gained 5.77 percent since January 1.

Asian shares were pretty flat on Thursday but looked poised to end the quarter on a positive note despite major sell-offs on Japan's disasters and the turmoil in the Middle East.

The focus will be on the release of Ireland's new bank stress tests results after the bell. These are expected to signal the effective nationalization of the entire system. Ahead of the results, Irish banks sold off heavily on Wednesday.

The tests have been carried out iin the wake of the financial crisis, which hit the Irish banking sector particularly hard, and could show a need for additional capital.

Concerns over the need for capital at banks in Europe's southern periphery have also been mounting, placing Portuguese, Spanish and Italian bank shares in focus as well.

Portugal will hold discussion Thursday on when to hold a snap election after its government fell. Ratings agency Fitch has warned that it may cut the country's rating again if it does not accept financial support soon.

Also on the agenda are UK consumer confidence numbers for March as well as a first estimate for euro zone inflation for March.

Finally, geopolitical concerns will also remain on investors' radars Thursday. French president Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan - he will be the first foreign leader to visit since this month's earthquake.

France is sending nuclear experts from Areva and its CEA nuclear research body at the request of Japanese authorities, who have been battling to avert disaster at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.