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* European shares edge higher in early trade
* Euro off its lows as market awaits clarity on Spain
* Chinese data helps dispel worries about extent of slowdown
* U.S. stocks seen opening higher, Citigroup due to report
By Richard Hubbard
LONDON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - European shares gained and the euro trimmed some of its losses after Chinese data offered evidence for stronger than expected global growth on Monday, but uncertainty over when Spain might request a bailout weighed on investors.
Data over the weekend from China, the world's second largest economy, showed inflation was subdued in September while exports had rebounded at nearly twice the rate expected, helping to dispel growth concerns ahead of GDP numbers on Thursday which are still seen pointing to a mild slowdown.
"There is a lot of caution around because economic growth does look difficult from where we are, while the debt situation in Europe remains challenging," said Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
The FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top European shares rose 0.45 to 1,098.14 in early trade with gains of between 0.3 and 0.9 percent for London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX.
Economists polled by Reuters have indicated that China's annual economic growth probably slowed for a seventh straight quarter in the July-September period to expand 7.4 percent, the weakest level since the depths of the global financial crisis.
But the latest data has clouded the outlook on whether it would do more to shore up growth, and has added to evidence that efforts by the world's major central banks to boost activity may be beginning to have an effect.
"The September jump in export orders was twice as high as expected, coming on the back of better export orders released from Germany, Taiwan and Korea, indicating a rebound of global trade," Morgan Stanley said in a note to clients.
Any gains in equities from the Chinese data are still likely to be limited by worries about the health of corporate earnings, given the slowdown in global growth already seen since June.
In the United States, where the reporting season began in earnest last week, earnings are expected to drop 2.4 percent compared to the June to September period of 2011; that would be the biggest decline since the third quarter of 2009.
Preseason announcements by S&P 500 companies have also pointed to the potential for greater weakness, Thomson Reuters research shows. There have been 94 negative earnings preannouncements from this group for Q3 compared to 23 positive ones - a 4.1 ratio which is the weakest showing since Q3 2001.
On Friday, the weak outlook saw U.S. stocks post their worst week in four months, although the market is expected to recover slightly on Monday.
Financial institutions will dominate earnings in the coming days, including Citigroup later on Monday, then Goldman Sachs and Bank of America during the week.
In the foreign exchange market, the euro was flat on Monday at $1.2945 as the long wait for Spain to request a bailout from its euro zone partners resumed, with little scope of solid news at an European Union summit later this week
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said his government expects to agree on a new austerity package with its lenders and for the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to bridge their differences on how to cut the country's debt at the leader's meeting on Thursday and Friday.
But euro zone officials have said Spain is probably going to ask for financial aid only in November. If it does the request would probably be dealt with alongside the programme for Greece and a bailout for Cyprus in one big package.
The Spanish request is key to market sentiment as it would pave the way for the European Central Bank's programme to buy bonds of struggling euro zone states that ask for assistance.
"Any policy announcement keeps getting pushed back and a lack of political action is keeping the euro pinned down," said Adam Myers, senior currency strategist at Credit Agricole.
The dollar was also flat against a basket of six major currencies at 79.64 while some dollar-denominated commodities dipped on worries the latest Chinese data may delay any further easing by the monetary authorities in Beijing.
"There is an air of uncertainty today ... which makes it hard to predict what (the Chinese government) will do next," said Andy Du, derivatives director at Orient Futures.
Copper prices fell 0.3 percent to near a one-month low, while Brent crude oil edged down to $114.56 a barrel. Gold extended recent losses to touch a 2-1/2-week low of $1,741.24 an ounce.