Europe Factors-Shares seen mixed at the open; focus on banks

 (Adds company news, detail; updates snapshot table) 
 LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - European shares are set to open mixed on
Thursday ahead of a widely expected rate rise by the European Central Bank
(ECB), with investors seen focusing on peripheral banks after Portugal decided
to seek financial aid.
 Futures for Euro STOXX 50 (STXEc1: Quote, Profile, Research) and France's CAC (FCEc1: Quote, Profile, Research) were up 0.2
percent, although futures for Germany's DAX (FDXc1: Quote, Profile, Research) were flat.
 The ECB is likely to raise interest rates by 25 basis points from a record
low 1 percent later in the day, as it seeks to curb inflationary pressures, but
must be careful not to hurt the euro zone's struggling peripheral economies by
increasing rates fast, analysts said. [ID:nLDE7351QH]
 Portugal became the latest of the weaker peripheral euro zone economies to
buckle to market pressure and seek a cash injection, as expected for some weeks,
but Lisbon will have to agree to tough austerity targets to obtain a bailout.
[ID:nLDE73601M]
 "It's a timely reminder of the trouble the southern economies of Europe are
currently experiencing with high costs of debt, but with the northern economies
continuing to grow strongly, the ECB's commitment to fighting inflation may be
the main driver of its decision making," said Jonathan Sudaria, dealer at
Capital Spreads.
 Markets could now turn their attention to Spain, which is also struggling to
get its public finances under control at the same time as combating high
unemployment, although Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado said economic
contagion from Portugal was ruled out because financial markets distinguish well
between the two countries. [ID:nMDT009862]
 Across in Ireland, meanwhile, fellow peripheral nation and past receiver of
bailout cash, the KBC Bank/Chartered Accountants of Ireland's quarterly business
sentiment survey showed almost three-quarters of Irish companies expect to be
hurt by higher ECB rates. [ID:nLDE73528P]
 A rate decision by the Bank of England at 1100 GMT will also be watched.
Only one of 67 economists polled by Reuters expected rates to rise from 0.5
percent, though the central bank faces criticism that it has gone soft on
inflation which is running more than double its target.
 On Wednesday, the FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) index of top European shares
ended 0.3 percent higher at 1,147.24 points in strong volume, gaining ground for
the 13th time in 15 sessions.
 
 ----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0619 GMT----------------------  
                                      LAST        PCT CHG        NET CHG 
 S&P 500                  (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research)    1,335.54      0.22 %            2.91 
 NIKKEI                  (.N225: Quote, Profile, Research)    9,590.93      0.07 %            6.56 
 MSCI ASIA EX-JP (.MIASJ0000PUS: Quote, Profile, Research)      587.34     -0.12 %           -0.71 
 EUR/USD                  (EUR=: Quote, Profile, Research)      1.4302     -0.22 %         -0.0032 
 USD/JPY                  (JPY=: Quote, Profile, Research)       85.26     -0.20 %         -0.1700 
 10-YR US TSY YLD    (US10YT=RR: Quote, Profile, Research)       3.543        --             -0.01 
 10-YR BUND YLD      (EU10YT=RR: Quote, Profile, Research)       3.443        --              0.00 
 SPOT GOLD                (XAU=: Quote, Profile, Research)   $1,453.91     -0.21 %          -$3.09 
 US CRUDE                 (CLc1: Quote, Profile, Research)     $108.50     -0.30 %           -0.33 
 
 * GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro near multi-month highs before ECB  [ID:nL3E7F7044]
 * US STOCKS-S&P500 index edges higher on light volume    [ID:nN06251636]
 * TREASURIES-Oil price-driven inflation fears hurt bonds [ID:nN06577978]
 * Euro off highs before ECB rate verdict; yen depressed  [ID:nL3E7F709C]
 * Nikkei climbs after 2 days of decline, output jitters  [ID:nL3E7F708F]
 * PRECIOUS-Gold slips from record; ETF holdings low      [ID:nL3E7F706G]
 * METALS-Copper eases in London, up in Shanghai          [ID:nL3E7F708G]
 * Oil slips below $122; concern high prices hit demand   [ID:nL3E7F70CO]
 
COMPANY NEWS 
 
 SIEMENS (SIEGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
 The engineering conglomerate is considering exiting an atomic power joint
venture with Russia's Rosatom after the nuclear crisis in Japan and mounting
internal resistance, the Financial Times reported in its Thursday edition,
citing unidentified sources. Related news [SIEGn.DE-E]
 
 BASF (BASFn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
 The chemicals group has halted the sales process of its textiles and leather
chemicals unit because a lack of offers, Financial Times Deutschland daily
reported, citing a spokesman for the group.  Related news [BASFn.DE] 
 
 SOLVAY (SOLB.BR: Quote, Profile, Research), RHODIA (RHA.PA: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Rhodia's employee shareholder association Rhodia Alliane recommended to its
members that they tender their shares for Solvay's offer. Solvay filed on April
6 the draft offer document relating to its offer with the AMF French markets
authority. [ID:nLDE66P0SY] 
 
 MERCK KGAA (MRCG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
 The drug and chemicals maker remains committed to the Japanese market
following March's devastating earthquake and plans to increase its investments
there, Chief Executive Karl-Ludwig Kley told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
newspaper in an interview, adding that production shifts there have been
adjusted to coincide with electricity supply. Related news [MRCG.DE-E] 
 
 AIRBUS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) (EAD.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Airbus plans to bring forward by six months the entry into service of its
revamped A320 jetliner, seen as key to battling Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and fending off
emerging rivals in the largest aircraft segment. The fuel-saving model of
Airbus's best selling-aircraft will now be available in October 2015, Airbus
said in a statement. [ID:nLDE7350JZ] 
 A 3.5 billion-euro deal to rescue the troubled Airbus (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) A400M
airlifter will be signed on Thursday in Seville, southern Spain.
 
 AEGIS (AEGS.L: Quote, Profile, Research)
 The British marketing group is prepared to spend up to 600 million pounds
($981 million) to fund acquisitions in fast-growing economies and the digital
sector, its chief executive told French daily Les Echos. [ID:nLDE73603D] 
 
 GLENCORE [GLEN.UL]
 Glencore International AG], the global commodities trader, is set to start
trading in London on May 24 and in Hong Kong on May 25, Hong Kong daily
newspaper Ming Pao reported on Thursday. [ID:nL3E7F702Y] 
 
 AURUBIS (NAFG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Smelters will wrest back some control from miners in annual treatment charge
talks, as record copper prices encourage ore output that may struggle to find a
home, Europe's biggest copper producer Aurubis said on Wednesday.
[ID:nN06244491]  Related news [NAFG.DE-E] 
 
 CLARIANT (CLN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Swiss speciality chemicals maker Clariant AG (CLN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Thursday it
will sell 23 million new shares to partially fund its $2 billion acquisition of
Germany's Sued-Chemie AG (SUCG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), its biggest buy in a decade.
 
 SULZER (SUN.S: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Swiss engineering group Sulzer said it has agreed to buy Cardo's Flow
Solution for a total cash consideration of 858 million Swiss francs. For related
news, click on [SUN.S] 
 
 NOVARTIS (NOVN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Novartis said on Thursday it is selling the global rights to Elidel, a
medicine to treat atopic dermatitis, to Meda for $420 million. For related news,
click on [NOVN.VX]
 
 UNICREDIT (CRDI.MI: Quote, Profile, Research)
 Spain's Santander (SAN.MC: Quote, Profile, Research) is examining a possible acquisition of the
private banking activities of UniCredit's asset management arm Pioneer, Il Sole
24 Ore said in an unsourced report which included a no comment from Santander.
 
 (Reporting by Atul Prakash)

Europe Factors-Shares seen mixed at the open; focus on banks