Europe Markets

FTSE, DAX, CAC to Open Higher; Greek Debt Talks Resume

European stocks were called to open higher on Thursday following an announcement by the US Federal Reserve that interest rates could remain low through 2014.

The FTSE is called 30 points higher, the DAX in Frankfurt is expected to be up by 29 points and the CAC 40 is called higher by 20 points.

In Asia overnight, shares and the euro were steady following news from the US Federal Reserve that interest rates could remain at near-zero lows through to 2014.

While the Fed had indicated that short term interest rates would be maintained for the time being, the suggestion by officials that they could stay close to zero "at least through 2014" came as a surprise.

The dollar fell sharply on the news, causing US borrowing costs to drop and the Dow Jones Industrial Index rose close to a 3 1/2 year high.

Greece will remain in the spotlight on Thursday as International Institute of Finance (IIF) officials return to Athens for further discussions on the extent of losses private bondholders are willing to accept on their Greek debt holdings.

European Central Bank officials told Reuters late on Wednesday that the ECB remained opposed to accepting voluntary losses on its Greek bondholdings, but officials were debating how they would handle any forced losses on Greek debt.

Following an FT report on Tuesday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was pressurizing the ECB to accept write-downs on Greek debt holdings, the IMF confirmed late Wednesday that it has not asked the ECB to play a specific role in any negotiations on Greek debt restructuring.

In its first comments on Iranian oil sanctions since the US and EU pledged to ban imports of Iranian oil, the IMF warned that global crude prices could jump by as much as 30 percent if Iran halts exports in response to sanctions.

Italy will hold a bond auction on Thursday of zero coupon notes (CTZ) and 250 million to 500 million euros ($327 million to $655 million) of inflation linked bonds at 10:00am London time.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Berlin on Thursday at a meeting scheduled for 11:30am London time followed by a press conference at 1:00pm UK time.

The World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland continues on Thursday, while French Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande will present the details of his manifesto in Paris.

Key corporate data to watch on Thursday includes fourth quarter earnings from Swedish fashion retailer H&M at 7:00am UK time and Nokia is expected to release full year results.

French energy firm Areva is due to announce fourth quarter sales results on Thursday, while mining company Anglo Americanwill release an interim management statement ahead of its full year results on February 17.

Economic data includes consumer confidence reports from Germany at 7:10am London time, followed by France at 7:45am.