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Earnings lift Europe shares, Wall Street set to open lower

News 02 May 2017

left right Traders work at their desks in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote – RTS14BV7 1/2 left right People are seen in front of an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon 2/2 By Nigel Stephenson | LONDON

LONDON Stocks rose in Europe and Asia on Tuesday after technology industry shares hit record highs on Wall Street and investors focused on strong corporate earnings while shrugging off weaker-than-expected Chinese factory activity data.

European stock markets opened higher after the May 1 holiday, reflecting the bullish mood on Wall Street, where the closely watched "fear gauge" of implied equity market volatility closed at its lowest since before the global financial crisis.

Forecast-beating earnings have helped push shares higher across the globe this year. First-quarter profits at S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 13.6 percent, the strongest rise since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. European equivalents are seen up 13.9 percent.

Wall Street is expected to open slightly lower, index futures show.

The dollar hit a one-month high against the safe-haven Japanese yen on some signs of easing tensions over North Korea and as U.S. bond yields rose after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the government was looking into issuing ultra-long debt of maturities in excess of 30 years.

Greek government bond yields fell after Greece and its lenders reached a long-awaited deal on reforms required to release further bailout funds.

The pan-European STOXX 600 share index, which had its best week since December last week, nudged up 0.2 percent. The banking sub-index was up 0.4 percent, showing no reaction to comments from U.S. President Donald Trump, who told Bloomberg Television he was actively considering breaking up big banks.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.5 percent to its highest level since June 2015, as many of the region's markets also reopened after a long holiday weekend. Japan's Nikkei rose 0.7 percent after some robust earnings.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index hit a record high on Monday as the world's five largest companies by market capitalization — Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook — all hit intraday or closing highs.

Apple reports results later on Tuesday and Facebook on Wednesday.

"Higher corporate earnings and tax reform seem to be more important to the market than any off-the-cuff remark from Trump. That means people are not buying protection in the options market to protect themselves from a drop in the market," said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

The VIX volatility index closed at its lowest level since February 2007.

Strong earnings have outweighed concern over patches of weak economic data. An official survey on Tuesday showed Chinese factory activity growth slowed more than expected in April. The ISM measure of U.S. manufacturing activity also undershot forecasts on Monday.

Euro zone factory activity hit a six-year high in April, according to IHS Markit data. The euro traded 0.1 percent stronger at $1.0912.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.1 percent. The dollar was up 0.3 percent at 122.12 yen, just shy of its strongest since March 31.

ULTRA-LONG

U.S. 30-year Treasury yield were 1 basis point higher at 3.02 percent, just below Monday's three-week high, after Mnuchin told Bloomberg issuing ultra-long bonds "can absolutely make sense".

"Mnuchin's comments have at least stabilized the long end of the curve," said Lee Hardman, a currency economist with Japan's MUFG. "But the dollar is still on the defensive in the near term. The data from the U.S. has been coming in on the disappointing side and the Fed is likely to acknowledge that at this week's meeting."

The Fed begins a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday.

The yen, often sought in tense times, hit a five-month high in mid-April as concerns grew about a possible conflict over North Korea. Tension eased somewhat after Trump said on Monday he would be honored to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the right circumstances.

The yield on 10-year Greek government bonds fell 30 basis points to 6.18 percent, their lowest since October 2014, after the deal with its lenders, which followed half a year of talks.

Oil prices rose as investors weighed rising production in Libya and elsewhere and expectations that the OPEC producers group and others will extend output curbs. Brent crude last traded 29 cents higher at $51.81.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo, Jamie McGeever, Patrick Graham, Helen Reid and Abhinav Ramnarayan in London; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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