LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - European equity markets were seen opening slightly lower on Tuesday, continuing to consolidate the previous week's strong rally to eight-month highs and looking to U.S. economic data for a fresh catalyst. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open down seven to 13 points, or as much as 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX to ease eight to nine points, or around 0.1 percent, and France's CAC-40 to open six points, or 0.2 percent lower. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 closed down 0.1 percent at 1,105.61 points on Monday, snapping a four-session winning streak that took it to an eight-month intra-day high of 1,109.18 on Friday. With investors favouring European companies that are exposed to U.S.
economic growth, U.S. housing starts data at 1230 GMT and a testimony by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at 1400 GMT were likely to be the highlights of a relatively light events calendar on Tuesday.. The possibility of a sharp slowdown in China, the other major global economic powerhouse, also remained in the spotlight with BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, noting signs of "flattening" iron ore demand there. "Strategically, I am bullish on equities," Neil Dwane, chief investment officer for Europe at Allianz Global Investors/RCM, said. "The thing is that they have rallied quite a long way, so it's harder to be as confident when you think: have we solved any of the economic issues?" A handful of Italian companies, including Banca Popolare, were due to report results at the tail end of the earnings season. To date, 55 percent of euro zone bluechips have missed forecasts with 2011 results compared with 32 percent of U.S. peers, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0633 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,409.75 0.4 % 5.58 NIKKEI 10,141.99 0.12 % 12.16 MSCI ASIA EX-JP -0.5 % -2.66 EUR/USD 1.3229 -0.06 % -0.0008 USD/JPY 83.40 0.04 % 0.0300 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.375 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 2.069 -- 0.03 SPOT GOLD $1,654.66 -0.35 % -$5.74 US CRUDE $107.43 -0.61 % -0.66 * GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares fall, led by China; euro steady * US STOCKS-S&P within 10 pct of record high; Apple up on div plan * Nikkei gains for 5th day; Fanuc, Komatsu advance * TREASURIES-Bonds resume sell-off, yields hit 4-1/2 month highs * FOREX-Dollar stuck near one-week low; Aussie falters * PRECIOUS-Gold edges down, positive US outlook dents demand * METALS-Copper slips on low China buys; Greek boost fades * Brent falls near $125 on Libyan supply, China fuel hike COMPANY NEWS: GLENCORE The commodities giant, partnered with Canada's Richardson International Ltd and Agrium Inc, is close to a deal to buy Viterra Inc, Canada's biggest grain handler, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
BHP BILLITON, RIO TINTO BHP, the world's biggest miner, said it was seeing signs of "flattening" iron ore demand from China, though for now it was pushing ahead with ambitious plans to expand production. Rival Rio Tinto said it too was sticking with plans to raise capacity from its huge mines in Western Australia's Pilbara iron ore belt, betting on a soft landing for the Chinese economy. DEUTSCHE BOERSE The exchange plans to sue the European Commission for blocking its $ 9 billion merger with NY SE Euronext, to recoup merger costs and keep the door open for future deals in the derivative markets.