Marketmind: Running out of breath

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Anshuman Daga

After a strong start to the year, fuelled by hopes that the outlook for the world economy was not shaping up as bad as expected a few months ago, stocks are finally taking a breather.

Asian equities held steady on Wednesday near seven-month highs after a mixed session on Wall Street.

On the corporate front, Barclays CEO C.S. Venkatakrishnan appointed former Credit Suisse dealmaker Cathal Deasy as co-head of investment banking with a view to grow the business and an eye for succession.

And a group of minority shareholders that appealed against the French government’s full nationalisation of energy giant EDF dropped the motion on the eve of the hearing.

On a thin day for economic data, focus will be on U.K. producer prices and the German IFO.

European stock futures dipped 0.3%, indicating a weaker start for markets, while U.S. stock futures shed 0.5%.

Revenue at Europe’s largest companies is expected to have risen by just 0.9% in the fourth quarter, Refinitiv I/B/E/S data showed on Tuesday.

The forecast, which tracks companies listed on the pan-European STOXX 600 benchmark index, represents a drop from last week when analysts expected revenue growth of 4%.

GRAPHIC – Analysts downgrade earnings forecasts

Investment strategists at Standard Chartered say it is time to fade the rally seen in European stocks and the euro since the lows of September.

They say an unusually warm winter has allayed fears of wide-spread energy shortages and rationing in Europe. China’s economic reopening has been another tailwind for European exporters’ prospects.

But they outlined many challenges for European equities, including stretched technicals and an increasingly hawkish central bank policy.

Meanwhile, Microsoft kicked off the U.S. tech season with a sobering outlook and forecast that third-quarter revenue in its cloud business would come just shy of market forecasts.

The 2% increase in the last quarter’s revenue, the slowest in more than five years, signalled tougher times for tech companies just as Apple and Google-parent Alphabet are due to report earnings next week.

GRAPHIC – Microsoft’s slowing quarterly revenue growth

Key developments that could influence markets on Wednesday:

Economic data: U.K. December producer prices, Germany January Ifo

European results: Christian Dior

U.S. results: IBM, AT&T, Boeing, Whirlpool

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Christopher Cushing)