European Markets Set to Rally but Debt Story Dominates

European shares are set to open sharply higher on Friday, mirroring gains in Asia and on Wall Street, with firmer commodity prices seen supporting miners and oils ahead of a long weekend in the United States and Britain.

UK consumer confidence jumped the most in 18 years, supported by warm weather and a string of public holidays.

Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open 46 points higher, or as much as 0.8 percent, Germany's DAX to gain 64 to 65 points, or as much as 0.9 percent, and France's CAC-40 to open 42 to 43 points firmer, or as much as 1.1 percent.

Shares edged down on Thursday in response to data showing the US economy grew at a slower pace than forecast and amid doubts over whether the IMF will release its next tranche of aid to Greece.


European Central Bank executive board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo said he expected Greece to qualify for the tranche of EU/IMF aid, but Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands will not agree to further aid if the IMF refuses.

In Asia, stocks traded mixed on Friday following gains on Wall Street.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares ended 0.07 percent lower at 1,126.28 points, while Germany’s DAX lost 0.8 percent.

London’s FTSE closed slightly higher, up 10.85 points or 0.18 percent, marking the third consecutive day of gains.

The euro rose against the dollar following news that China is looking at buying Portuguese bailout bonds and traders predicted more gains could be in store for the single currency.

The euro briefly pushed above $1.42, its strongest performance in about a week.

In politics, the second day of the G8 summit gets underway in Deauville, France.

US president Barack Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy before Obama heads to Poland where he and Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski will host a dinner for Central and Eastern European heads of state in the evening.

HSBC will hold its annual general meeting on Friday, starting at 11:00 London time.

On Thursday, Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann told his firm’s AGM that the German investment bank could overtake Goldman Sachs as the top investment bank in the world.

The EU will release data on euro area economic activity at 8:30 London time, followed by data on monetary development in the euro area at 9:00.

The Nationwide UK house price index for May will be released at 7:00 BST.