European shares were set to fall for a fourth straight day to a three-week low on Thursday as minutes of the U.S. central bank's last policy meeting failed to quell concerns about a cut in stimulus from next month. But losses were seen limited by likely strength in the mining sector after data showed that factory activity in China, the world's biggest metals consumer, hit a four-month high in August. Prices of key industrial metals such as copper and aluminium rose 0.6 to 1.3 percent. Futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.1 to 0.2 percent lower as sentiment became more bearish after the Federal Reserve minutes. The minutes, released late on Wednesday, provided few clues on the potential timing for a reduction in bond purchases and did not mention September specifically, but they did little to discourage predictions. "The fact is market consensus has been calling for an announcement in September with regards to lowering the pace of Fed bond buying programme for some time ... we feel the FOMC minutes pretty much rubber-stamped that view," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG said in a note. Investors will keep a close eye on the macroeconomic numbers for hints about the timing of the Fed's likely move to lower liquidity and the stock market's near-term direction. Focus will be on U.S. weekly jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 17 at 1230 GMT and Markit's manufacturing PMI for August at 1258 GMT. Economists forecast a total of 330,000 new jobless claims filings, up from 320,000 in the prior week and a PMI reading of 54.0, against 53.7 in the final July report. In Europe, German manufacturing PMI index, due at 0728 GMT, is likely to rise to 51.2 from 50.7, while the euro zone's manufacturing PMI index, to be published at 0758 GMT, is seen edging higher to 50.8 from 50.3. "I expect markets to pay more attention to today's figures, with a negative result potentially acting to support a push higher in the markets. Any sign that tapering will not come until December is likely to be welcomed for now," Craig Erlam, analyst at Alpari, said. Earnings reports would continue to move shares of individual companies. According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 90 percent companies on the STOXX Europe 600 have reported second-quarter results, of which 46 percent have missed expectations, while the rest have met or beaten. In the previous quarter, 48 percent companies missed forecasts. Dutch grocer Ahold reported higher-than-expected operating profit, helped by cost cuts and better deals from suppliers. But Swiss dental implant maker Nobel Biocare said profit tumbled 42 percent on an unfavourable currency impact and a one-off restructuring charge. The FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.6 percent on Wednesday, when U.S. stocks dropped 0.4 to 0.7 percent. On Thursday, the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell more than 1 percent to a six-week low, while Japan's Nikkei was down 0.4 percent. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0619 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,642.80 -0.58 % -9.55 NIKKEI 13,365.17 -0.44 % -59.16 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 496.13 -1.27 % -6.39 EUR/USD 1.3339 -0.13 % -0.0017 USD/JPY 98.26 0.61 % 0.6000 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.918 -- 0.03 10-YR BUND YLD 1.920 -- 0.04 SPOT GOLD $1,361.60 -0.3 % -$4.14 US CRUDE $103.64 -0.2 % -0.21 > Asian markets struggle to live with higher borrowing costs > Wall St falls after Fed minutes yield few clues > Nikkei eases, but early losses pared by China data and weak yen > Yields rise as Fed pullback seen on track > Dollar up on Fed tapering view; China data supports Aussie > Gold slips for second day on stimulus worries > Copper climbs after China data fuels hopes for demand recovery > Brent stays above $109 after China data; Libya weighs AHOLD Dutch grocer Ahold on Thursday reported higher-than-expected operating profit for the second quarter, supported by internal cost cuts and better deals from suppliers. NOBEL BIOCARE HOLDING The Swiss dental implant maker said second-quarter profit tumbled 42 percent, dragged down by a one-off restructuring charge and an unfavourable currency impact. EURONEXT IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) has hired three banks to advise on the listing of Euronext, whose sale is crucial to its $8.2 billion takeover of NYSE Euronext, three sources familiar with the situation said. VOLKSWAGEN Germany's Volkswagen is expected to announce later this year an initial 200 million euro ($268.53 million) investment to build an automobile plant in Indonesia, an Indonesian government minister said. RTL The company said on Thursday it planned to pay an interim-dividend of 2.50 euros per share, citing strong cash flows in the first half of the year after its operating profit (EBITA) rose 9 percent. SALZGITTER Germany's steelmakers should band together to buy raw materials, much like Chinese rivals do, the chairman of the steelmaker was quoted as saying in Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung on Thursday. Rainer Thieme also said he could not rule out a closure of the loss-making Peine plant. RAIFFEISEN BANK INTERNATIONAL Second-quarter profit at the bank fell by a quarter to 120 million euros ($160 million), emerging Europe's second-biggest lender said on Thursday, missing market estimates.
Max factors to Watch-Shares to extend losses on Fed concerns
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