(Adds futures, company news; updates snapshot table)
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - European shares were set to open a shade lower on Thursday, with investors waiting for the next catalyst to take stocks higher after expectations of more monetary easing from the U.S. Federal Reserve and further cheap funding from the European Central Bank faded.
Futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.01-0.24 percent lower. Financial spreadbetters earlier predicted Britain's FTSE 100 to open about 0.1 percent lower.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday offered a tempered view of the U.S. economy, pouring cold water on the notion recent upbeat signs heralded a stronger recovery. He provided no hints for further Fed bond purchases.
In Europe, banks borrowed 530 billion euros ($709 billion) at the ECB's second offering of cheap three-year funds on Wednesday. The market expects that the move will be its last major crisis-fighting act.
Analysts said that investors will keep a close eye on macroeconomic indicators for hints about the pace of global economic recovery and an absence of strong numbers in the coming days could prompt them to take profits after a strong run.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares hit a seven-month high last week before giving up some gains. The index ended 0.1 percent lower on Wednesday, but is still up more than 7 percent so far this year.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index finished 0.3 percent lower at 2,512.11 points.
"The fall off in upside momentum has taken the index back to test its short-term uptrend at around 2,500, although traders would probably need to see a break through the low end of the recent range, at around 2,480, to convince them that the rally is breaking down," Bill McNamara, technical analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
The market might get some support from data showing China's factories grew more than expected in February as new export orders for big firms bounced back.
Investors will scrutinise the first-time claims data at 1330 GMT for U.S. jobless benefits for the week ended Feb. 25. Economists forecast a total of 351,000 new filings, unchanged from the previous week. Focus will also be on January personal income and consumption data at 1330 GMT, and the Institute for Supply Management's February manufacturing index at 1500 GMT.
MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0729 GMT
LAST PCT CHG NET CHG
S&P 500 1,365.68 -0.47 % -6.5
NIKKEI 9,707.37 -0.16 % -15.87
MSCI ASIA EX-JP <.MIASJ0000PUS -1.03 % -5.51
EUR/USD 1.3315 -0.08 % -0.0010
USD/JPY 81.13 -0.01 % -0.0100
10-YR US TSY YLD 1.991 -- 0.02
10-YR BUND YLD 1.825 -- -0.01
SPOT GOLD $1,715.09 1.17 % $19.85
US CRUDE $106.67 -0.37 % -0.40
* GLOBAL MARKETS-Markets dampened by Bernanke, data awaited
* Wall St snaps four-day advance after Bernanke remarks
* Tokyo's Nikkei share average closes down 0.16 pct
* FOREX-Dollar eases off 3-month low on Fed no easing hint
* TREASURIES-U.S. bonds creep slightly lower
* Brent steady above $122 on supply concerns, China, U.S.
* PRECIOUS-Gold edges up 1 pct after plunge on Bernanke
* METALS-Copper tentative as China data may lessen easing
HSBC Holdings is nearing a deal to sell its general insurance business for about $1 billion, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, with French insurer AXA SA and Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd expected to split the business, a separate report said.
Dutch grocer Ahold reported an 11.2 percent rise in quarterly operating profit, below forecasts, and said sales growth in the first three months of 2012 would reflect the difficult economic environment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a lower dose formulation of tts angeliq product.
Nokia Siemens Networks Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said a stock market flotation of the joint venture of Siemens and Nokia is possible after the unit has been restructured. Related news
Rio Tinto, the world's third-largest miner, said it sees coking coal and copper markets remaining tight, while margins were being squeezed in aluminium, the firm's chief economist, Vivek Tulpule said in slides prepared for a presentation in Sydney.
German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp plans to make the company more profitable and cut debt by giving regional units more power and tying them more closely to the headquarters, German paper Handelsblatt reported.
Finnish group Outokumpu's shareholders were set to approve a 2.7 billion euro ($3.6 billion) buy of ThyssenKrupp's stainless steel business on Thursday, a deal aimed at boosting profitability and fending off Asian rivals.
Europe's largest telecoms and entertainment group slashed its dividend as it wrestles with tougher competition in the French mobile market that is set to eat into margins at its SFR telecom business.
Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy sees pressure on earnings this year and next as the company battles with tougher competition in its domestic mobile market, with profit growth not resuming until 2014.
The heavily indebted restructuring French utility swung to a net loss last year after writing down the holding it is seeking to sell in its public transport division and as the European debt crisis hit.
Adecco warned of slowing jobs growth in parts of Europe after its fourth-quarter net profit fell 5.7 percent to 133 million euros, slightly beating the 123 million euros average forecast in a Reuters poll. For more, see:
LINDT & SPRUENGLI
Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli said the spectre of rising joblessness was dampening consumer sentiment and Europe's debt crisis made the coming year hard to assess, after 2001 net profit rose 1.9 percent to 246.5 million Swiss francs, just ahead of the average analyst forecast for 244 million Swiss francs in a Reuters poll. For more, see:
The world's largest maker of corrective eye lenses predicted revenue growth and sustained high operating margins in 2012 after reporting a 9.4 percent rise in 2011 profits.
General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen will seek to squeeze a joint $2 billion annually from a global platforms-to-purchasing alliance, but the savings will not be fully realized for five years, the automakers said.
Hong Kong Airlines Ltd, backed by China's fourth-largest carrier Hainan Airlines Co Ltd, may cancel its order for 10 Airbus A380 aircraft amid growing tensions between China and the European Union over the EU's emissions trading scheme, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday. (Reporting by Atul Prakash)