LIVE MARKETS-Stronger start for European equities

* European stocks open higher

* Next drives retail sector up after strong Christmas update

* Tech stocks, industrials rise

* MiFID II reforms, U.S. Fed minutes in focus

Jan 3(Reuters) - Welcome to the home for real time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Kit Rees. Reach her on Messenger to share your thoughts on market moves: kit.rees.thomsonreuters.comzreuters.net

Stronger start for European equities (0817) It's a decidedly stronger open across the European benchmarks this morning with Next leading the way on the STOXX 600, up 7.5 percent after its Christmas sales beat. Marks & Spencer is rising as well as concerns around the ailing retail sector are placated somewhat by Next's update. Cyclical strength is also coming back with industrials and tech stocks helping drive the market. Apple supplier AMS is up 5.5 percent after the iPhone maker and other Internet giants drove gains on Wall Street. No sign yet of MiFID II day having a substantial impact on trading, but we'll give you an update on liquidity soon as some have said the new regulation kicking in could distract investors from the trading day.

(Helen Reid)


What we're watching (0759)

While yesterday was a rather damp start to European equity trading in the New Year, today stocks futures are pointing to a firmer session, though company news being on thin side means that it will be more of a drift higher. Well be keeping an eye on the FTSE 100 in case it makes another bid for a record level. Trading, however, is likely to continue to be muted as investors come back from holiday and the MiFID II reforms are launched. FOMC minutes after the market closes are another factor to watch. Company news/stock movers: Passenger rights group takes legal action that could block Niki sale to IAG; Novartis breast cancer therapy gets FDA breakthrough designation; Spreadbetting company Plus500 sees higher 2017 profit and revenue; UK's FCA opens investigation into Carillion; UK's Next upgrades profit forecast on Christmas sales beat (shares seen 2-5 pct higher) (Kit Rees)


European airlines in focus once again (0722)

It's not a huge day for company news, but we could see some more action among airlines today. On Tuesday shares in BA owner IAG ended at a two-month high after it agreed to buy Air Berlin's insolvent Austrian airline Niki. But now a passenger rights group is taking legal action which could block the sale of Niki to IAG. Interestingly, airline stocks enjoyed some very strong gains last year, with both IAG and Lufthansa's shares up 150 percent in 2017, while IAG was up a comparatively more modest 48 percent and easyJet gained 45.7 percent.

(Kit Rees)


European stocks futures climb (0707 GMT)

Equity stocks futures are indeed pointing to a positive session today, and perhaps we could even see the FTSE making another bid for a record level. Here's your futures snapshot:

(Kit Rees)


European shares seen edging higher -spreadbetters

Good morning! Financial spreadbetters see European stocks opening flat to slightly higher on Wednesday, with Germany's DAX expected to rise by 37 points and France's CAC by 3 points. A less ebullient euro should also help. The FTSE 100 is seen broadly unchanged, as oil prices steady and copper falls back. While Wall St saw a strong session on Tuesday and China stocks extended their rally, trading in European shares could be more muted on day one of the MiFID II reforms. Later on we've also got the release of the U.S. Federal Reserve's FOMC minutes from its December policy meeting after the market has closed. "Strength in domestic currencies may be sapping some of the strength in European markets. Traders in FTSE 100 shares may be looking for the index to re-test the old highs at 7600 before pushing on toward new records," Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, said in a note. (Kit Rees)


(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Helen Reid, Kit Rees and Julien Ponthus)