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From DealingFloor:

** EUROPE: HEADLINES **

- European Executive, Consumer Confidence May Have Remained Near 5-Year High
- French Jobless Rate Fell to 9.5 Percent in March, More Than Three-Year Low
- Billionaire Azevedo Defies EU Snub, Hunts Portugal’s Former Phone Monopoly
- Yen Drops Versus Dollar as Japan’s Takenaka and Abe Say Deflation Persists
- Oil Falls for Fifth Day as Refiners Make More Fuel, Easing Supply Concern
- Retail Sales in Eastern European Countries to Grow `Strongly,’ Mintel Says
- Roche, Drugmakers Shares Soar as Bird Flu Poses Threat to North America

** EUROPE: IN PLAY TODAY **

- Earnings of note: Novo Nordisk, DSM, Volkswagen, Erste Bank, Banco Santander and Puma.

- Areva SA ,The world’s largest builder of nuclear reactors said first-quarter sales rose 13 percent to 2.48 billion euros as it worked on constructing Finland’s fifth power repeat a gain from the sale of shares of Ferrosan A/S. Net income fell to 1.21 billion kroner ($200 million), or 3.72 kroner a share, from 1.23 billion kroner, or 3.70 kroner, a year earlier, Bagsvaerd, Denmark-based Novo said in a statement on Stockwise today. Novo was expected to earn 1.33 billion kroner, the median estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by RB-Boersen.

- Puma AG, Europe’s second-largest sporting-goods maker, said first-quarter profit unexpectedly rose and increased its annual forecasts for the second time in as many months ahead of this year’s World Cup soccer tournament. First-quarter net income increased 2.5 percent to 93 million euros, Puma said today in a statement. Analysts had expected profit to drop to 85 million euros, according to a Bloomberg survey. Earnings will fall less than 10 percent this year, the company said. Puma, based in the German town of Herzogenaurach, previously forecast a decline of 10 percent to 15 percent.

** EUROPE: UPS & DOWNS **

+ SINGAPORE STOCKS RAISED TO `OVERWEIGHT’ BY MERRILL LYNCH
+ VOLVO RAISED TO `HOLD’ FROM `SELL’ AT CITIGROUP
+ PEUGEOT PRICE ESTIMATE RAISED TO EU53 FROM EU46 AT LEHMAN
+ GLAXOSMITHKLINE PRICE EST. RAISED TO 1707P VS 1655P AT MERRILL
+ SAINT GOBAIN PRICE ESTIMATE RAISED TO EU62 FROM EU58 AT UBS
+ LONMIN RAISED TO `BUY’ FROM `NEUTRAL’ AT UBS
+ ASTRAZENECA PRICE ESTIMATE RAISED TO 3200P FROM 3000P AT UBS
+ ABB PRICE EST. RAISED 20% TO SF17.85 AT JPMORGAN
+ RANDSTAD PRICE EST. RAISED 8% TO EU52.50 AT MORGAN STANLEY
+ GLAXO RAISED TO `OVERWEIGHT’ AT MORGAN STANLEY :GSK LN

- OUTOKUMPU CUT TO `UNDERWEIGHT’ VS. `NEUTRAL’ AT JPMORGAN
- MERRILL LYNCH TURNS LESS POSITIVE ON PAKISTAN STOCKS
- JCDECAUX CUT TO `IN-LINE’ FROM `OUTPERFORM’ AT GOLDMAN SACHS
- SMITH & NEPHEW LOWERED TO `EQUAL-WEIGHT’ AT MORGAN STANLEY

** US: TRADING HEADLINES **

- Bernanke Says Fed May Pause in Rate Increases Even If Risks Not Balanced
- Treasury 2-Year Notes Rise Most in Six Weeks on Expectations for Fed Pause
- U.S. Stocks Advance on Bernanke Comments; Shares of Banks, Utilities Climb
- Dollar Weakens After Bernanke Says Central Bank May Suspend Rate Increases
- China May Take Further Steps to Cool Economy After Raising Interest Rates

** FED PAUSE **

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke gave his strongest signal yet that the central bank may pause in its cycle of interest rate increases. “Even if in the committee’s judgment the risks to its objectives are not entirely balanced, at some point in the future the committee may decide to take no action at one or more meetings in the interest of allowing more time to receive information relevant to the outlook,'’ Bernanke said. The Fed’s Open Market Committee is now basing deliberations
on what incoming data say about their forecast of a slower economic expansion in the second half of 2006. A continuing surge in growth may spur the central bank to keep lifting rates after 15 consecutive increases in almost two years.

** US: AFTER HOURS **

Missing analysts’ expectations by a penny, Microsoft (-6.4% after hours) reported Q3
earnings of $0.32 per share, excluding $0.03 legal charge. Revenues rose 13.3%
year/year to $10.9 bln, which was also shy of expectations (consensus $11.04
bln). Looking ahead, MSFT issued downside EPS guidance for Q4, sees EPS of $0.30
(consensus $0.34) on revenues of $11.5-11.7 bln (consensus $11.67 bln). Co also
issued downside EPS guidance for FY07, sees EPS of $1.36-1.41 (consensus $1.53)
on revenues of $49.5-50.5 bln (consensus $49.52 bln). Microsoft CFO said, “We
are now accelerating our investments in the business to drive future growth,
which is reflected in our financial guidance. We believe next fiscal year will
deliver even stronger double-digit revenue growth than this year.”

** US: IN PLAY TODAY **

On the economic front, investors will get an advanced read on Q1 GDP, its
accompanying chain deflator figure and the Q1 Employment Cost Index at 14:30 CET.
Michigan Sentiment Chicago PMI hit the wires at 15:45 and 16:00 CET.

Chevron (CVX) will head a list of notable names reporting results before the bell which also includes ArvinMeritor (ARM), Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Cummins (CMI), Fortune Brands (FO), ITT Industries (ITT) and Snap-On (SNA).

** ASIAN MARKETS **

Nikkei -1,12%; Kospi -2,29%; HSI -1,27%; Taiwan 0,5%; China 0,7%; India -0,97%; Thailand -0,36%; Australia -0,83%

** ASIAN HEADLINES **

- China May Take Further Steps to Cool Economy After Raising Interest Rates
- Bank of Japan Leaves Key Interest Rate Near Zero; Consumer Prices Climb
- Asian Stocks Have Steepest Slide in Two Weeks on China Rates; Sony Slumps
- E.Land Buys Carrefour’s South Korea Discount Store Chain for $1.9 Billion
- Nippon Steel Says Full Year Net Income to Fall 19 Percent on Competition
- Sony Shares Head for Biggest Drop in Three Years as Forecasts Fall Short
- Honda Plans to Increase Spending in Japan to Boost Domestic Vehicle Sales
- Chinese Debt Will Underperform on Higher Interest Rates, Citigroup Says

Source: Friday Morning View From Europe