RTTNews - The European stock futures point to a higher opening on Friday. However, after significant gains in the past two sessions, investors are likely to pause for some profit taking ahead of the weekend.

Trading could be largely range bound on alternate bouts of buying and selling following modest gains on Wall Street overnight and mixed cues from Asia. In the absence of key economic reports from Europe, investors are likely to track U.S. stocks for direction.

After edging up in early trading, Asian stocks either pared their gains or drifted lower on Thursday, with China's Shanghai Composite index taking the brunt of selling.

On Wall Street, stocks managed to finish on the upside for the second straight session, even as largely disappointing retail sales and jobs reports contributed to some uncertainty in the markets. After trading choppily over the course of the day, the major U.S. averages closed on a positive note helped by late buying on the back of strong demand for the Treasury Department's US$15 billion sale of thirty-year bonds. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.39%, the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.53% and the S&P 500 index edged up 0.69%.

Crude oil finished modestly higher on Thursday after better-than-expected results from U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart and a strong showing of the German and French economies in the second quarter, improved hopes for an economic recovery and the outlook for global energy demand. A weaker dollar also improved oil's hedge value. After settling at $70.52 a barrel, up 36 cents in New York trading on Thursday, crude oil rose further to $70.74 a barrel in Asian trading this morning.

In corporate news, supervisory boards of Europe's largest car maker Volkswagen and luxury car maker Porsche said on Thursday they had approved a plan for the gradual merger of the two companies by 2011.

Germany's biggest builder Hochtief AG reported a better-than-expected pretax profit of 161 million euros in the June quarter, down from 189 million euros in the corresponding period last year and reiterated its earnings expectations for 2009.

French luxury products group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA bought 50 percent stakes in two French wine makers.

Man Group plc said its wholly-owned subsidiary, Man Group UK, has entered into a Variable Forward Sale, or VFS, Agreement with Nomura International plc over its entire remaining stake in MF Global.

Switzerland-based watchmaker Swatch Group AG reported a smaller-than-expected 28 percent decline in first-half profit and sees a pick up in demand for its Omega and Breguet timepieces in the second half.

Bankers Petroleum reported a second-quarter net loss from continuing operations of $1.7 million or $0.009 per basic share versus a profit of $1.0 million or $0.006 per basic share in the year-ago period.

The European markets rose for the second day on Thursday after a report showed that the Eurozone economy contracted slightly in the second quarter and Germany and France emerged out of recession, giving positive signals of an early recovery in the single-currency area from a deep recession.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.69% higher, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 0.54%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index advanced 0.82%, France's CAC 40 index gained 0.45% and Germany's DAX index added 0.95%.

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