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Stocks - Europe Slips at Opening; IMF To Release New Forecasts

By Peter Nurse - European stock markets pushed with traders taking the opportunity offered by the U.S. holiday to consolidate recent sharp gains. Eyes are on Davos as the world political and business leaders gather to discuss the global economy at the World Economic Forum.

At 04:15 ET (0915 GMT), the DAX traded 30 points, or 0.2% higher. France's CAC 40 was up 21 points, or 0.3%, while the FTSE 100 in the U.K. also dropped 21 points, or 0.3%. The pan-eurozone index, the Euro Stoxx 50 fell 15 points, or 0.4%.

French telecoms and media group Iliad (PA:ILD) formally launched its previously announced plan for a 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) capital increase, which will be used to finance a share buyback offer. Shares drop 1.5%.

In more positive news, the French hotel group Accor (PA:ACCP) said it has launched a share buyback of up to 300 million euros ($332.6 million). This forms part of a larger plan to return EUR1 billion to shareholders over the next two years.

Defence company BAe Systems (LON:BAES) announced it has agreed to buy Collins Aerospace’s Military Global Positioning System and Raytheon’s Airborne Tactical Radios businesses for a total price of $2.2 billion. BAE’s shares climbed 3.2%. The businesses are being offloaded as a condition for antitrust approval of Raytheon's merger with United Technogies.

Later, the International Monetary Fund is set to present new forecasts for the global economy at 8:00 AM ET (13:00 GMT). The Fund's last update predicted gross domestic product growth to pick up to 3.5% this year from 3.2% in 2019, assumptions that were based on the avoidance of a disorderly Brexit and the lack of any further escalation in the China-U.S. trade war. Those assumptions appear - for now at least - to have been borne out.

On Friday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the interim trade deal between Washington and Beijing will reduce - but not eliminate - uncertainty that has acted as a drag on global growth.

The organization had previously estimated that global trade tensions would shave 0.8% off international economic growth.

The U.S. equity markets are closed Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and this is likely to limit activity in Europe.

In commodity news, the price of oil pushed to its highest levels in more than a week higher amid intensifying tensions in the Middle East, raising output and exports concerns.

On Sunday, Iraq halted output at an oilfield as widespread unrest escalated. Meanwhile, in Libya, in the latest development in a long-running conflict, two large crude production bases in Libya began shutting down amid a military blockade, even as international powers agreed in Berlin not to stoke the conflict with arms sales or military interventions.

At 4:15 AM ET (09:15 GMT), U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% at $58.83 and the international benchmark Brent contract rose 0.5% to $65.19. Gold futures for February delivery on New York’s COMEX were flat at $1,560.

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