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LIVE MARKETS-Italian banks on fire

(Repeats item to fix table) * European shares climb to new record high * China to halve tariffs on some U.S. imports * S&P 500, Nasdaq post record closing highs * Banks lead gainers on heavy earnings day 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 (thyagaraju.adinarayan@tr.com), Joice Alves (joice.alves@tr.com), Julien Ponthus (julien.ponthus@tr.com) in London and Danilo Masoni (danilo.masoni@tr.com) in Milan. ITALIAN BANKS ON FIRE (1145 GMT) Italy's blue-chip index hit its highest level in almost two years, mainly driven by UniCredit shares which jumped after reporting blow-out quarterly results and pledging to raising investor returns given that its turnaround has been largely completed. The UniCredit optimism is boosting rest of the banks in Italy: The jump in Italian stocks also comes a few days after the surprisingly strong performance of the centre-left Democratic Party in last weekend’s elections. So what to make of all of this? Overall, Jefferies remains "modestly bullish" on the country, analysts say in a note today. "We believe the equity market still offers decent valuations/attractive returns vs fixed income against a very deflationary macro backdrop," say Jefferies analysts. "The result of the Emilia-Romagna local elections should dampen concerns about a collapse of the governing coalition, leading to snap elections. Our own proxy for political risk has moved into risk taking territory," they say. (Joice Alves) Any feedback/comments write to Joice: Joice.alves@tr.com or @joiceal on Twitter **** REST OF THE WORLD: STAY AT WORK! (1106 GMT) The last blog post showed European indexes have all beaten or were on the verge of beating investors' average 2020 targets (November Reuters poll), but it's a different picture when it comes to rest of the world with many major emerging markets still miles behind: Index Current level Nov'19 Reuters On target? poll (2020 est) S&P 500 3,334.7 3,260 WELL ABOVE DOW JONES 29,290.9 29,400 JUST SHORT NIKKEI 23,873.6 25,000 NOPE CHINA SSE 2,866 3,300 WELL BELOW RUSSIA 3,115.3 2,785 WELL ABOVE IMOEX INDIA NSE 12,138 13,000 NOPE BRASIL SAP 116,028 130,000 NOPE (Julien Ponthus) ***** EUROPE: SELL IN FEBRUARY AND GO AWAY... (1024 GMT) It's usually in May that the old market saying advises traders and investors to take a break while stocks are on a high and lock in their profits for the year. Looking at what expectations were at the end of 2019, it seems that European markets have already posted much of the performance that was expected of them for 2020 and many indexes are now cruising in unchartered record high waters. With uncertainties still running high on the coronavirus, the EU-UK Brexit trade deal, the U.S. elections and the euro zone economy bottoming out, now might be a good time to take the rest of the year off? Index Current level Nov'19 poll On target? (2020 est) STOXX 600 425 420 YEP STOXX 50E 3,797 3,770 YEP FTSE 100 7495 7,500 VERY, VERY CLOSE DAX 13,560 13,725 ALMOST THERE CAC 40 6,024 6,050 VERY CLOSE FTSE MIB 24,405 23,900 YEP IBEX 35 9,777 9,500 YEP Some reading: POLL-Trade and Brexit deals could push European stocks to record highs POLL-Not much potential to unleash in London's FTSE (Julien Ponthus) ***** OPENING SNAPSHOT: STOXX NOTCHES FRESH RECORD HIGHS (0820 GMT) It's shaping up as another risk-on day with the pan-European STOXX 600 benchmark index climbing to a new record high in early deals and cyclical sectors leading a broad-based rally in another heavy day for earnings updates. Banks are the biggest gainers and have almost erased all the losses suffered so far this year, as solid results are helping ease worries over the impact of sub-zero interest rates in the region. UniCredit is up 5% followed by Nordea Bank and DNB and Raiffeisen, which are rising around 4%. ArcelorMittal is stealing the show with a jump of more than 10% after the world's largest steelmaker forecast increased steel consumption in its core markets and posted a higher-than-expected annual profit and its lowest ever level of debt. Royal Mail hit a new lifetime low, falling to the bottom of the STOXX, after forecasting a challenging year ahead. Here's your opening snapshot: (Danilo Masoni) ***** ON OUR RADAR: EARNINGS, EARNINGS, AND EARNINGS (0753 GMT) Futures are pointing to a higher open today and it looks like Europe's top benchmark could break above its previous record high. No coronavirus surprises, lifetime closes on Wall Street and China's move to cut tariffs on some U.S. imports are all adding to the upbeat mood, along with some good-looking earnings updates. On the corporate news front, it's a heavy day for bank earnings that show how the sector is coping with negative rates. Numbers from Italy's No.1 bank UniCredit, Nordic leader Nordea and Austria's Raiffeisen are looking good so far and come as analysts have started to edge up their forecasts on the sector's profits following nearly two years of downgrades, although Societe Generale and ING Groep fell short of analyst expectation. Despite the Q4 miss, some traders see Soc Gen shares rising at the open, supported by a pledge to boost shareholder returns. Decent numbers in the energy sector from oil majors. One trader sees shares in Total up 2% after Q4 net adjusted profit steadied at $3.2 billion, beating expectations, while Equinor could rise 1% after a smaller-than-expected drop in Q4 core operating profits. The trade-sensitive car sector, the worst performer in Europe so far in 2020, could be underpinned by the China tariff news while Toyota raising its full-year profit forecast on better-than-expected vehicle sales could also be sector positive, even though Japan's No. 1 carmaker said he impact of the new coronavirus was difficult to gauge. Meantime, cost cuts and sales growth helped unlisted Volvo Car post an 18% rise in Q4 operating profit. In tech, possible read-across from U.S. chip maker Qualcomm which said overnight coronavirus poses a potential threat to the mobile phone industry, overshadowing results that otherwise beat expectations. A surprise net profit could push shares in telecom network equipment maker Nokia up 3-5%. Other stock movers: ArcelorMittal sees 2020 steel pick-up as debt hits low, Sanofi eyes more EPS growth this year as it narrows focus; BP eyes sale of Algerian gas plant after Rosneft talks fail -sources; Royal Mail says outlook "challenging" as mail recovery lags. (Danilo Masoni) ***** EUROPE SET FOR MORE GAINS (0640 GMT) Record closes on Wall Street and a move by China to halve tariffs on some U.S. imports are expected to help push European stocks higher today despite the coronavirus threat and as earnings expectations for Q4 stabilise after a string of downgrades. On the corporate front, it's a busy earnings day, especially in the banking sector. France's third-biggest bank Societe Generale boosted its capital after asset sales; Q4 earnings at Nordic leader Nordea Bank topped expectations; Italy's biggest bank UniCredit posted a lower-than-expected Q4 net loss; while ING Groep's Q4 pre-tax profit fell slightly short of expectations. Elsewhere, Nokia posted a surprise Q4 profit and Equinor's profit beat expectations. Financial spreadbetters at IG expect London's FTSE to open 42 points higher at 7,482, Frankfurt's DAXto open 82 points up at 13,478 and Paris' CAC to open 36 points higher at 5,985. (Danilo Masoni) ***** (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Joice Alves, Julien Ponthus and Thyagaraju Adinarayan)