* European shares close at record highs, up 0.8%
* China stimulus hopes, drop in new virus cases lifts mood
* Puma affirms FY targets despite virus, shares jump
* Tech and utilities anong top gainers, financials lag
* Wall Street: S&P 500, Nasdaq scale new highs Welcome to the home for real-time coverage of European equity markets brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters. You can share your thoughts with Thyagaraju Adinarayan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Joice Alves (email@example.com), Julien Ponthus (firstname.lastname@example.org) in London and Danilo Masoni (email@example.com) in Milan.
CLOSING SNAPSHOT: ANOTHER RECORD DAY (1704 GMT)
China stimulus hopes and a drop in new virus cases lifted the mood in markets today, sending the STOXX 600 to yet another record high, up 0.8%, even as recent weakness in the euro is a reminder of how economic dat in Europe has deteriorated.
All other major bourses in Europe closed with good gains, as you see below:
UK: MORE JOBS, HIGHER PRICES, NEW CHANCELLOR - SO WHAT? (1626 GMT)
Some surprising data from the UK and a new chancellor make people wonder if there are some fiscal and monetary policy changes under way.
Analysts at DB say there is still a decent amount of fiscal headroom left but they expect the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak to end up sticking to his predecessor's spending rules.
Later on, "should the Chancellor abandon the proposed fiscal rules, we would view this as a material shift in fiscal policy, opening the door to significantly more spending in the short-to-medium term," DB says.
Meantime, investors can count on the government's appetite for infrastructure spending.
"One thing's for sure, however, the Government remains committed to 'levelling-up' the country. As such, the March Budget will undoubtedly focus on infrastructure spending," DB says.
In terms of monetary policy changes, inflation growth data adds weight to the argument against the Bank of England cutting interest rates," says Chatham Financial.
"While the jump higher in January's CPI number doesn't in itself mean an end to the two-year downtrend in the pace of inflation, there were signs of upwards pressure on future prices that will likely put an end to any discussions of an imminent rate," it says.
Here are some UK macro updates:
1) Britain's Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose to six-month high of 1.8% in January, up from 1.3% a month earlier.
2) The number of people in work in Britain jumped again at the end of last year, the unemployment rate of 3.8% remained at its joint lowest level since early 1975.
3) The Budget will go ahead on 11 March as planned, new chancellor Rishi Sunak.
UTILITIES: 54 DAYS OF PASSION! (1525 GMT)
Utilities are on fire and their run looks to be unstoppable.
The sector - by far the best performer in Europe in 2020 - is eyeing another milestone: it is on track for its best 54-day run since records began in 1987, up 25% over the period.
Fifty-four days may not be the typical timeframe to measure performance but it certainly highlights how investors are getting hot on the industry, which is set to benefit from a multi-billion investment boom to make the world greener.
"We see this as a period of transformation for the European utility sector, as the full potential of cheap, clean, cost-competitive wind and solar becomes ever clearer," says UBS.
Ultra-low yields also do help explain the move.
Anyhow, here's your milestone in chart:
And here's more reading:
"Renewa-bull or Renewabubble?"
Why utilities are so hot
Utilities: flying like a FANG
Davos: Watch those utilities
WHO'S NEXT IN ITALIAN BANKING M&A (1140 GMT)
No one has a crystal ball to say how Italian banking M&A is going to play out following Intesa Sanpaolo's hostile bid for UBI Banca but the strong share price moves in Milan suggest investors are gearing up for others banks to join the fray.
"We believe that the voluntary offer of ISP on UBI has more impacts on the other banks than on ISP itself," say Equita analysts Giovanni Razzoli and Andrea Lisi.
And here's a recap of the names they say could possibly be called into action.
Banco BPM: "The main beneficiary of an increased M&A appeal among our coverage universe is BAMI, which is trading with a significant discount".
Popolare di Sondrio: "We believe that market will incorporate a slightly lower M&A probability on BPSO vis-à-vis BAMI... as the transformation into a joint-stock company cannot be taken 100% for granted".
Credito Valtellinese: "We believe that also Creval could be involved into the sector consolidation once the derisking process the streamlining of the operating structure has been completed".
Monte dei Paschi: "BMPS speculative appeal, if any at present, is entirely related to company specific elements ie the outcome and the terms of the acceleration of the derisking process currently under discussion with the EU".
That said, Equita says Italian bank's earnings outlook is grim and warns against being over-exposed to the sector.
WANNA PLAY THE EASING VIRUS FEARS? (1030 GMT)
If the answer yes, then Credit Suisse has some tips for you.
To find possible buys, the Swiss bank screened for stocks that have underperformed over 10% since the rate of coronavirus infections peaked, and are cheap and are outperform-rated.
Among the names they single out Siemens, Informa as well as many commodity stocks, such as RDS and Antofagasta.
In this chart you can see how these stocks clearly underperformed the market since virus fears hit markets one month ago.
OPENING SNAPSHOT: JUST SHY OF RECORD (0825 GMT)
European stocks are just shy of record highs and its risk-on trades across the board as coronavirus infection rate slows with miners, oil & gas and banks outperforming the pan-European STOXX 600 index.
Among single stocks, Campari is down 6% after the Italian spirits group reported full-year organic sales growth below estimates. In a surprise reversal, Plastic Omnium wipes off gains seen at the open, falling 3%, even as profits came in better than expected.
Man Group is the top riser on STOXX 600 after Exane upgrades stock to "outperform", according to traders.
EURO TAILWIND PLAYING OUT; BA-OWNER IAG, HAPAG LLOYD IN FOCUS (0750 GMT)
Stocks are seen attempting to scale fresh record highs as a sharp drop in euro late last evening is seen supporting dollar earners in the bloc. European bourses, which are seen opening 0.5% to 0.7% higher, are also supported by slowing new cases of coronavirus.
The pan-European STOXX 600 is expected to scale yet another record peak, a day after Apple's coronavirus warning kept stocks under pressure. The virus is seen disrupting supply chain and sales in industries ranging from cars to phones.
Adva Optical is the latest company to warn on disruptions from coronavirus and its shares are seen falling 6% at open.
In other corporate news, British Airways owner IAG's shares could get a boost as Qatar Airways Group said it had increased its stake in the airline operator to 25.1%.
Hapag-Lloyd's shares are rising 2% in premarket trade after the German container shipping company raised its 2019 profit forecast on higher freight rates.
ASR Nederland is seen rising 3% after the Dutch insurer's full-year results beat across the board, trader say.
Other significant moves: Plastic Omnium profits and dividend beat seen helping shares (+4%); Deutsche Telekom seen +2%, traders highlight strong free cash flow outlook; Renault cut to junk at Moody's.
BACK TO RECORD HIGHS? (0703 GMT)
European stocks are seen opening 0.5% to 0.7% higher as markets remain resilient to the economic effects of coronavirus which has killed nearly 2,000 people, mostly in China.
The pan-European STOXX 600 is yet again seen scaling record peaks today even as coronavirus is seen disrupting supply chain and sales in industries ranging from cars to phones. Apple was the latest to warn on a sales impact.
"We are already seeing various auto companies reporting concerns about shortages of parts in their supply chains, which in turn could well see production slowdowns," says Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
In corporate news, Covestro shares are likely to take a hit after the German chemicals maker warned on first quarter and 2020 profits citing stiff competition and low prices.
Meanwhile, container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd raised its 2019 profit forecast on higher freight rates.
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Joice Alves, Julien Ponthus and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)