RTTNews - The major European markets are likely to open lower on Friday after sharp gains in the previous session and amid caution ahead of the release of U.S. preliminary second-quarter GDP report later in the day.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence in the United Kingdom held steady in July, according to the latest survey from polling firm GfK NOP. The firm reported Friday that its headline consumer confidence index reading was minus-25 in July, unchanged from June. Most economists had forecast the reading would improve modestly to minus-23. The confidence index is 14 points higher than its level of one year ago.

In another development, Executive Directors of the International Monetary Fund said they expect the decline in economic activity in euro area to moderate through the rest of the year, giving way to a modest recovery next year. The executive board however, underscored the considerable uncertainty surrounding the scenario and estimated that the Eurozone economy would shrink by 4.8% in 2009 before shrinking 0.3% next year.

Asian stocks rose sharply to breach multi-month highs on Friday, buoyed by a strong close on Wall Street Thursday and better-than-expected earnings at companies from Japan to the U.S.

On Wall Street, stocks posted strong gains on Thursday, helped by stabilizing earnings and employment figures. A stronger- than- expected demand for the Treasury Department's $28 billion sale of seven-year notes also offered some support. Despite some profit taking in the final hour, the major averages closed at their best levels of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.92% , the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.84% and the S&P 500 index rose 1.19%.

Crude oil futures for September delivery bounced back on Thursday, ending nearly 6% higher at $66.94 a barrel, as traders bet a recent plunge was overdone. The one-day gain was the largest since April. In Asian trading on Friday, crude oil price rose further to $67.47 a barrel on increased optimism about the global economy.

In corporate news, Air France KLM reported a first-quarter net loss group share of EUR 426 million or EUR 1.45 per share, compared to a restated pro-forma profit of EUR 149 million or EUR 0.51 per share in the year-ago quarter.

British Sky Broadcasting Group plc reported a profit of GBP259 million or 14.9 pence per basic share for fiscal 2009, compared to a loss of GBP127 million or 7.3 pence per basic share in the prior year, helped by strong demand for its high-definition digital services.

Builder of nuclear reactors Areva SA said its first half sales rose 6 percent to euro 6.5 billion in the first half, up from euro 6.2 billion in the year-ago period.

French cosmetics company L'Oreal SA reported a 2.6% rise in its second-quarter sales and expects its performance to gradually improve over the course of 2009.

Satellite operator Eutelsat Communications' earnings per share for the full year ended June increased 42.7% to euro 1.13 from euro 0.79 last year.

Rexel reported a second quarter net income attributable to equity holders of EUR 17 million, compared to EUR 196.2 million last year. Sales declined to EUR 2.8 billion from EUR 3.48 billion in the comparable period a year ago.

The European markets rose for the second day on Thursday, as upbeat earnings from companies such as BT Group, Alcatel-Lucent and Volkswagen cheered investor sentiment. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 2.19% higher, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 2.24%. Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 10 index gained 1.85%, France's CAC 40 index added 2.08% and Germany's DAX index ended up 1.71%.

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