* European stocks open higher, FTSE touches record
* Euro zone services PMIs show growth near best in 7 years
* Heavily-shorted Debenhams sinks after profit warning
* Autos cruise to two-month peak
Jan 4(Reuters) - Welcome to the home for real time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Helen Reid. Reach her on Messenger to share your thoughts on market moves: helen.reid.thomsonreuters.comzreuters.net
PAY DAY FOR DEBENHAMS SHORTS (1013 GMT)
Yesterday's rise in Next and other retailers sure tested the conviction of investors who have shorted the likes of Debenhams for months in the hope of a downfall. With its profit warning triggering a fall of over 16 percent today to its worst price since the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, Debenhams, which is the second most-shorted stock on the FTSE, is delivering for speculators. Note that brokers such as Investec think things could still get worse, with the latter cutting its target price to 28 pence, below its already depressed level of 29.88 pence. According to Reuters calculations, Debenhams share price fall netted profits of around 12 million pounds on Thursday for hedge funds which have short positions totalling 14.3 percent of the company's stock. You can see how much Debenhams has fallen here:
(Julien Ponthus and Alasdair Pal)
EUROPEAN AUTOS CRUISE TO TWO-MONTH PEAK (0930 GMT)
The European autos sector has had a strong start to the year, up 1.2 percent this morning at a two-month peak. Today's move is being driven by yesterday's U.S. auto sales data for December. While not stellar, the figures did beat analyst expectations, with the likes of Fiat Chrysler up around 4.1 percent at a record high today. While the autos sector had a tepid first half in 2017, things have really started to pick up over the last six months. Fiat, Porsche and Volkswagen are among the biggest gainers over that period.
OPENING SNAPSHOT: EUROPEAN SHARES CLIMB, FTSE HITS FRESH RECORD HIGH (0815 GMT)
It's a positive start to the trading session for European equities, with almost all sectors higher. Cyclical sectors, such a financials and commodities, are adding the most to gains, and in turn have pushed Britain's FTSE 100 to a new high. Away from the STOXX 600, Debenhams is down 20 percent. Here's your opening snapshot:
PRE-OPEN ROUNDUP: WHAT'S ON THE RADAR (0746 GMT)
Futures are pointing to a stronger open for European stocks on Thursday after investors rising risk appetite drove Asian shares to a 10-year peak and oil prices surged further. Germanys exporter-heavy DAX is likely to benefit from the U.S. dollars recovery and continued strength in cyclicals, and services PMIs today which SocGen analysts forecast will confirm the regions sustained growth. One stock to watch will be UK department store Debenhams, indicated down 25 percent after a profit warning in stark contrast to Wednesdays strong update from Next, this will come as a blow to the British retail sector and likely hobble the previous sessions rally.
In other company news and potential stock movers: Novartis' Promacta receives FDA breakthrough designation for new indication;
British retailer Debenhams warns on profit after disappointing trading; Saga restructures travel business after cutting profit forecasts; Aldi UK's December sales up over 15 pct (Helen Reid)
DEBENHAMS TO SPOIL THE XMAS PARTY?
Yesterday the mood around UK retailers was pretty positive after Next reported better-than-expected Christmas sales. But this doesn't seem to have been the case with small cap peer Debenhams, which has issued a profit warning. Traders are calling Debenhams' shares down 25 percent, so it could be payday for those shorts. Debenhams' commentary in its Christmas update isn't exactly encouraging: "The early weeks of the quarter were disappointing as the market remained volatile and competitive." The retailer said that the first week of the post-Christmas sale was "below expectations." Debenhams' shares were down nearly 40 percent in 2017:
FUTURES OPEN HIGHER AS CYCLICAL RALLY SET TO CONTINUE (0709 GMT) Futures have opened higher across the board with the DAX leading the way as a rally in cyclicals is set to continue and the dollar's recovery takes the pressure off European exporting companies. Here's your snapshot:
SERVICES PMI TO CONFIRM EURO AREA ECONOMY'S MOMENTUM (0655 GMT)
SocGen analysts see today's PMI data dump on euro area services growth as likely to confirm the earlier flash estimates, but UK data will continue to weaken slightly, they predict. Overall they're pretty positive on how risk appetite has fared this first week of the year. "Risk is 'on', oil and commodity prices are strong, and the dollar is set to weaken further, albeit not in a straight line," they write.
EUROPEAN SHARES SEEN RISING AFTER ASIAN STOCKS HIT 10-YEAR PEAK (0633 GMT)
Good morning! Financial spreadbetters see European stocks rising on Thursday, taking their cue from Asian markets which hit a 10-year peak overnight as strong economic data from the U.S. drove equities and also helped the dollar recover from its swoon at the start of the week. London's FTSE is seen opening 13 points higher, flirting ever closer with its recent record high, Frankfurt's DAX is to open 65 points higher, and Paris' CAC is predicted to rise 25 points. Likely to support trading once again today is oil as crude prices hit fresh 2 1/2 year highs with tensions in Iran tightening supply. (Helen Reid)
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Helen Reid, Kit Rees and Julien Ponthus)