European shares creep up before Alcoa results

European stock markets firmed slightly on Tuesday as investors digested company newsflow, but remained cautious with US aluminium giant Alcoa set to kick off the quarterly earnings season.

In late morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies rose 0.12 percent to 6,072.50 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index added 0.07 percent to 7,737.54 points and the Paris CAC 40 advanced 0.47 percent to 3,722.13.

The European single currency firmed to $1.3122, compared with $1.3115 late in New York on Monday. And on the London Bullion Market, gold prices advanced to $1,653.75 per ounce, from $1,645.25.

"There is an element of caution in the markets this morning with Alcoa to kick of the reporting season tonight," said analyst Craig Erlam at trading group Alcoa.

"With little else to focus on at the moment, investors are looking more closely at the companies for signs that they have successfully weathered the recent storms and are in a strong position when the economy picks up."

In London, global miner Anglo American named AngloGold Ashanti boss Mark Cutifani as its new chief executive to succeed Cynthia Carroll with effect from April.

Australian Cutifani, 54, has been chief executive officer of South Africa-based gold producer AngloGold Ashanti since 2007, during which time he has led a major restructuring of the business.

Anglo's share price soared 2.35 percent to 2,047 pence in London as investors welcomed the appointment of a highly respected leader in the global mining industry.

"The new CEO comes with a proven track record and the confirmation of his appointment has contributed to a spike in the share price," noted analyst Richard Hunter at British brokerage Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Investors will now be hoping that the fortunes of Anglo American can be revived after a period of relative underperformance."

Air France-KLM airline reported that firm business in Europe and Asia had enabled it to increase passenger traffic by 2.1 percent last year but also revealed that freight traffic fell by 6.3 percent.

In response, Air France-KLM shares fell by 1.34 percent to 7.82 euros in Paris trade.

Asian equity markets retreated on Tuesday, following overnight losses in New York, as dealers took profits from recent advances while also seeking fresh catalysts.

Tokyo was also weighed by a rise in the yen, which has suffered heavy selling in recent weeks, while the South Korean bourse slipped on disappointment over the latest earnings guidance from Samsung Electronics.

Hong Kong stocks lost 0.94 percent, Seoul was 0.66 percent lower, Shanghai fell 0.41 percent, Sydney dipped 0.57 percent and Tokyo slid 0.86 percent.

With the US fiscal crisis out of the way until talks next month on raising the country's borrowing limit and cutting spending, eyes are now on the upcoming earnings season and economic indicators.

Wall Street provided a negative lead owing to caution ahead of the start of the corporate results season later Tuesday. The Dow shed 0.38 percent, the S&P 500 fell 0.31 percent and the Nasdaq edged down 0.09 percent.

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