The Coming Week in Europe: Telecom Shares, Merger Talk Remain Focus

Markets will also be watching for a western German biz confidence survey and political events in the European Parliament.
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Ever have to rush around and tie up a bunch of loose ends before you could pack the kids into the family van and head off to Orlando? If you have, then you have a good idea what Europe is going to feel like next week.

Most of Europe shuts down for the entire month of August and most of the Continent wants to be in vacation mode. Unfortunately for the suntan peddlers in southern France and Majorca, everyone seems to have something pestering them before they can head off.

Members of the

European Parliament

-- rarely seen as the most industrious lot -- are no different. Tuesday through Friday will see the parliamentarians gather in Strasbourg, France, for the first time since elections in June. The parliamentarians, however, elected amid dismal voter turnout across Europe, are itching to break for summer recess and will only be around long enough to be sworn in and choose a new president for the body.

As perfunctory as next week's gathering may seem, the parliament's new president could play a key role in whether the institution's power and legitimacy continues to grow after bringing down the

European Commission

amid a corruption scandal last spring.

The designated president for the postscandal EC,

Romano Prodi

, will speak before the parliament Wednesday after having met with prospective new commissioners over the weekend. Hopefully he won't have the same effect on members as he did on the continent's currency, the euro, when a few ill-timed

remarks helped put it on trajectory for all-time lows a few weeks back.

Telecom shares will likely maintain the interest of equity markets in the coming week, as rumors were rife Friday about a possible linkup between

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

and Spain's

Telefonica

. While the talk was denied by both companies, such a merger can't be counted out as both former monopolies have been looking for a partner to keep from becoming globally irrelevant.

One company Telekom won't be working with, it seems, is

France Telecom

(FTE)

, which said Friday it was ending the pair's strategic partnership and would sell its nearly 2% stake in DT by the end of the year. The move came as no surprise, as France Telecom was particularly miffed at DT's botched merger bid for

Telcom Italia

(TI)

two months ago. "Our partnership wasn't exactly crowned with success," said a France Telecom spokeswoman, according to the German daily

Handelsblatt

. Both companies' ADRs (shares traded in the U.S.) slipped on the news.

While economic data never goes on holiday, the coming week will bring some of the last reports that won't be influenced by the summer slowdown. On Tuesday, the Munich-based

Ifo

economic institute will release its survey of western German business confidence for June. Consensus has sentiment in Europe's largest economy picking up during the month.

A recent surge in imports "implies that demand is picking up and

that there is probably a recovery of investment activity already underway in Germany and Euroland at large," says Markus Schulte, an analyst for

Stone & McCarthy Research

in London. "We're convinced there will be a solid turnaround in the second half of the year."

Also next week, the EU's statistics office,

Eurostat

, will release June harmonized consumer prices data for the 11-member euro area on Thursday. Inflationary pressures are expected to remain absent from euro-economy.

While July and August

CPI

have yet to be reported, the expectation is that inflation may have also taken the summer off. We hear it rented a bungalow in on the Greek isle of Santorini.