(Alliance News) - European stock markets--according to the futures market--are expected to open lower on Friday, with "hawkish" comments from U.S. monetary policymakers and tensions in the Middle East dampening enthusiasm.

In New York overnight, the Dow Jones and Nasdaq lost 1.4 percent, while the S&P 500 gave up 1.2 percent.

Confidence in three rate cuts by the Federal Reserve for this year, starting in June, is being tested by a raft of recent data indicating that the U.S. economy remains healthy, while bank officials have done little to assuage concerns.

Minneapolis Fed chief Neel Kashkari said Thursday that there is likely to be no reduction this year, calling January and February inflation data "a bit worrisome" and adding that he wants to see more positive data.

His counterpart in Philadelphia, Patrick Harker, warned that prices are still rising too sharply and that "we're not where we need to be," while Richmond chief Thomas Barkin called it "smart" to take time to get a clearer idea of the path of inflation.

Thus, the FTSE Mib, after closing 0.1 percent in the red at 34,454.58 last night, is giving up 455.00 points.

In Europe, Paris's CAC 40 marks a loss of 119.40 points, London's FTSE 100 is giving up 89.20 points, and Frankfurt's DAX 40 marks a loss of 227.50 points.

The Mid-Cap yesterday picked up 0.1 percent to 48,007.55, the Small-Cap rose 0.6 percent to 28,745.73, while the Italy Growth gained 0.6 percent to 8,166.93.

On the Mib last night, Azimut rallied 2.9 percent taking the top spot. The company announced Wednesday that, through its subsidiary Azimut Alternative Capital Partners, it has entered into binding agreements with Petershill of Goldman Sachs Asset Management to acquire Azimut's entire stake in Kennedy Lewis Investment Management for a total of USD225 million. Azimut's initial investment in KLIM was USD60 million.

Poste Italiane was equally positioned on the highs, rising 1.2 percent to EUR11.66 per share. The stock also benefits from a target price increase by UBS to EUR14.20 from EUR12.20.

Snam -- in the red by 0.1 percent -- announced Wednesday that it had exercised its right of first refusal to increase its stake in Terminale GNL Adriatico, the company headed by Adriatic LNG, the regasification terminal operating in Italian waters off Porto Viro, in the province of Rovigo, from the current 7.3 percent to 30 percent.

Also among the bearish was Telecom Italia, in the red by 1.9 percent. The company announced Wednesday that the Rome Court of Appeals has closed in favor of the group a 15-year dispute concerning the restitution of the concession fee claimed for 1998, the year after the sector was liberalized, and demanded in restitution by the company. The sum owed is equal to the original fee, just over EUR500 million, plus revaluation and accrued interest, for a total of about EUR1 billion. The judgment is immediately enforceable and TIM will immediately initiate procedures to recover the amount in question.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has intervened on the matter on several occasions, pointing out the conflict between the directive on the liberalization of the telecommunications market and the national rules that had extended for 1998 the obligation to pay the fee to sector concessionaires.

Also in the red were Saipem and Banca Popolare di Sondrio, down 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. On the Lombard bank, it is reported that the independent agency Standard Ethics, at the end of its annual rating review process, improved the corporate rating assigned to the bank from "EE" to "EE+."

On the cadet segment, Juventus Football Club -- down 3.6 percent -- reported Wednesday that during the first session of the offer on the regulated market Euronext Milan held today, all 6.1 million unexercised option rights in the option offer period were sold, entitling the company to subscribe for a maximum of 3.1 million new shares, corresponding to about 2.4 percent of the total number of newly issued Juventus ordinary shares resulting from the capital increase under option.

Fincantieri, on the other hand, gave up 2.2 percent to EUR0.75, subject to profit taking after four bullish sessions.

OVS, on the other hand, gave up 0.5 percent after announcing on Tuesday that it had signed a binding investment agreement with the aim of reaching control and thus 100 percent of Goldenpoint in several stages. The agreement provides for an initial investment of EUR3 million, intended to underwrite a convertible bond and the acquisition of 3 percent of Goldenpoint's share capital. By July 31, 2025, OVS will have the option to increase to 51 percent.

The remaining 49% of the share capital can be acquired by OVS through the exercise of put & call options, in a time window between August 1, 2026 and July 31, 2029.

Iren - in the red by 0.1 percent - announced that it has signed a binding investment agreement to acquire a 50 percent stake in the share capital of a NewCo, into which the operating branches of EGEA, EGEA Commercial and EGEA Production and District Heating will be transferred. The NewCo will be 50 percent owned by Iren through a capital increase of EUR85 million that it will underwrite and release at the closing of the transaction, and the other 50 percent by a MidCo, whose share capital will be wholly owned by EGEA.

Caltagirone, on the other hand, rallied 3.9 percent to EUR5.40 per share. The stock updated its 52-week high to EUR5.50 per share.

Among the smallcaps, Zucchi -- in the green by 2.3 percent -- reported Wednesday that it had approved its financial statements as of December 31, which closed with a net profit of EUR2.9 million from EUR3.1 million in fiscal year 2022. "Net of the consolidation of the Descamps group, the result for the year is negative EUR1.8 million," the company specified in the note.

Beewize, on the other hand, rallied 8.3 percent, rebounding after three bearish sessions.

Somec rose 1.0 percent after reporting Thursday that its U.S. subsidiary Fabbrica, part of the Horizons division, won a new order on the U.S. East Coast worth more than USD18 million.

Seri Industrial rallied 0.3 percent after reporting that it closed 2023 with a net loss of EUR6.3 million, which compares with a net loss of EUR3.4 million in 2022. Revenues rose to EUR200.1 million from EUR199.6 million while Ebitda increased to EUR22.9 million from EUR17.4 million.

Among SMEs, Estrima advanced more than 18 percent to EUR0.63, on its third bullish daily candle.

DBA Group advanced 8.1 percent with price at EUR2.27 per share, heading into its fifth session to close with bullish trend.

The board of directors of EdiliziAcrobatica -- up 1.3 percent -- on Wednesday appointed Riccardo Banfo as a new director with some management powers and chairman of the board until the next shareholders' meeting. Banfo, a longtime group CFO, "is well acquainted with its internal dynamics," the company specified in a statement.

CY4Gate - in the green by 0.3 percent - announced Wednesday that it has signed a contract worth a total of more than EUR6.5 million for the execution of a series of projects in the defense sector with ELT Group, a leading European company in Defense Electronics for more than 70 years and a major shareholder of the Cy4Gate group.

Confinvest gave up 5.9 percent, the subject of profit-taking after three sessions closed in significant surplus.

Doxee gave up 3.6 percent to EUR2.72 per share, following a 3.7 percent green in the previous session.

In Asia, with Chinese stock exchanges closed for holidays, the Nikkei gave up 2 percent, while the Hang Seng is at a perfect parity.

Among currencies, the euro changed hands to USD1.0823 from USD1.0874 on Thursday's European stock close while the pound is worth USD1.2616 from USD1.2667 last night.

Among commodities, Brent is worth USD91.02 a barrel from USD89.25 last night while gold trades at USD2,279.35 from USD2,293.72 on Thursday night.

Friday's economic calendar includes at 0930 CET the Italian construction PMI data as well as Germany, France and the Eurozone.

From the US, at 1430 CET, the nonfarm payrolls report and unemployment rate will be released, followed at 1515 CET by FOMC memebro Barkin's speech.

At 1900 CET, the Baker Hughes plants report will be released. In the evening-as usual on Friday-the COT Report will be released at 2130 CET.

Among the companies in the Square, results from NVP and TMP Group are expected.

By Maurizio Carta, Alliance News reporter

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