German Growth Could Lift Dow

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LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) looks set to open up strongly, as falls in European markets have been arrested by news that German GDP rose by 0.5% in the first quarter, above expectations of a 0.1% increase.

Although France reported flat GDP growth and Portugal, Italy, and Greece all reported a fall in Q1 GDP, the German growth was enough to prevent the eurozone from falling back into recession.

Domestic consumer data will also be firmly in the spotlight, with April's retail sales figures and consumer price index inflation figures both due for release before the markets open.


Consensus forecasts for retail sales suggest a marginal increase in April -- a weaker performance after the 0.8% increase reported in March. The consumer price index is also expected to have remained unchanged in April, although core CPI is expected to show a 0.2% increase.

Retail earnings will also be the focus of trading today, with both J.C. Penney and Home Depot due to publish quarterly results.

All the major European markets were up by late morning, but early gains were already weakening by noon with the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) up about 0.2% and the DAX and CAC 40 indices up by slightly more. Even Spain's embattled IBEX 35 managed a 0.3% increase by lunchtime, with ArcelorMittal and Telefonica both helping to lift the overall index. In London, cruise-ship operator Carnival (NYS: CCL) was one of the biggest risers, managing a 3% gain in morning trading.

Back home, Coty has announced that it is abandoning its bid for Avon -- a decision that has resulted in a sharp sell-off of Avon stock in pre-market trading.

This Berkshire Hathaway-backed bid was a little unusual for CEO Warren Buffett, who usually prefers friendly takeovers or direct purchase of large equity stakes. This was the case recently when billionaire Buffett invested more than $1 billion in a leading British blue chip. The legendary investor bought into a famous British name with global expansion potential -- and you can discover the identity of the company and the price he paid in this special free report.

In other company news, reports are suggesting that the upcoming Facebook IPO is now heavily oversubscribed and will be subject to a revised target price range of $34 to $38 per share, up from $28 to $35.

Talks of a renewed offer by Hertz for the Dollar Thrifty Group may also drive trading activity, as rumors suggest that a significant increase in the Hertz offer is likely. Other companies that could see active trading today include Groupon and Agilent Technologies, both of which reported above-expectation earnings last night.

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At the time this article was published Roland Head owns no shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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