European Shares to Fall After Bernanke, Swiss Re Eyed

European shares were set for a weaker start on Friday following falls in U.S. and Asian markets after comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the health of small U.S. banks dragged down financials and fueled concern over the health of the U.S. economy.

A slew of expected economic data in Europe and across the Atlantic may add to recession fears.

Investors will also keep a close eye on annual results from Swiss Re, the world's largest reinsurer, which reported a full-year 2007 net profit of 4.2 billion Swiss francs (US$3.95 billion), beating the average forecast in a Reuters poll.

On Thursday American International Group, the world's largest insurer, posted its biggest-ever quarterly loss after being hurt by a writedown of securities exposed to bad mortgage investments, sending its shares down.

Financial bookmakers expect Britain's FTSE 100 to open down 10 to 11 points, Germany's DAX to open down 12 to 21 points and France's CAC-40 down 12 to 15 points.

Oil touched a new high above $103 on Friday while the U.S. dollar fell to a series of lows against major currencies.

Bernanke, in a second day of testimony before members of Congress, said on Thursday small banks that invested heavily in real estate could collapse as the housing downturn drains their capital.