LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - European shares were set gain at open on Wednesday, with financials in the spotlight as investors bet a large number of banks will tap the European Central Bank's three-year cheap loans offering and boost liquidity in the financial system. There are expectations banks will take 500 billion euros ($670 billion) from the ECB, according to a Reuters poll of money market traders, in which forecasts ranged from 200 billion to 750 billion euros. The STOXX Europe 600 Banks index has surged 15.9 percent since the ECB's first long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) in December and has recovered nearly half of its falls of last year. "It all depends on the size of the take up, I think the market will be happy with 500 billion euros, the banks have been responding quite well to improving credit conditions and share prices have been highly correlated to it," Colin McLean, managing director at SVM Asset Management in Edinburgh, said. "We are long on banks and have BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank , Barclays and Credit Suisse in our portfolio." At 0722 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were all up 0.3 percent. Charts show the FTSEurofirst 300 index remains in an upward trend and has gained 7.5 percent this year following the ECB's first LTRO offering. "The FTSEurofirst 300 index is still reasonably healthy and is holding above a previous resistance at around 1,053 which represents its January high," said Phil Roberts, chief European technical strategist at Barclays Capital. "It still looks like it has further to go." "But the upside looks like it is going to be slow and I would not be surprised if the market struggles a bit at these higher levels as investors take profits. The index will face resistance at 1,113 which is the high it reached in July before it sold off to reach a low in September." Later in the session, investors will eye U.S. fourth-quarter GDP numbers due at 1330 GMT, and February's Chicago PMI scheduled for 1445 GMT. MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0728 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,372.18 0.34 % 4.59 NIKKEI 9,723.24 0.01 % 0.72 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 537.25 1.35 % 7.15 EUR/USD 1.3465 0.01 % 0.0001 USD/JPY 80.38 -0.09 % -0.0700 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.946 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 1.816 -- 0.02 SPOT GOLD $1,786.59 0.15 % $2.60 US CRUDE $106.99 0.41 % 0.44 US STOCKS-Dow, S&P hit milestones on confidence, lower oil GLOBAL MARKETS-Broad gains as ECB fund injection awaited Brent rises above $122; ECB loan may spur buying Copper retreats from 2-week high, ECB eyed FOREX-Euro pins hopes on ECB; yen retreats COMPANIES STANDARD CHARTERED The Asian-focused bank reported a 2011 pretax profit of $6.78 billion, up from the $6.12 billion it recorded a year earlier, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse. The result was in line with an expectation for $6.8 billion from a poll of 24 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. DEUTSCHE BANK Deutsche Bank is talking exclusively to privately held U.S. institutional asset manager Guggenheim Partners on the sale of a big chunk of Deutsche's asset management businesses, Germany's biggest lender said on Tuesday. BANKS Swiss lawmakers are set to back a tax proposal with the United States on Wednesday in a move which could pave the way for Switzerland to settle a U.S. probe into Swiss banks and hidden offshore accounts. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into whether the world's biggest banks manipulated a global benchmark rate. ITALIAN BANKS,, Italian banks have issued nearly 40 billion euros of fresh state-backed bonds that they could use as collateral in exchange for cheap three-year European Central Bank loans at an auction on Wednesday, Reuters calculations show. ERSTE GROUP BANK Erste Group Bank AG, emerging Europe's second-biggest lender, forecast improved 2012 operating results as risk costs fall from elevated 2011 levels. PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN The French automaker must respond quickly to reports of a planned capital increase and tie-up with General Motors that sent its shares yo-yoing, France's AMF market watchdog said. HOLCIM Holcim, the world's second-largest cement maker, slashed its dividend by a third on Wednesday after it posted a net loss in the fourth quarter due to slumping demand for construction materials and restructuring at a South African business. LUXOTTICA Italy's Luxottica, the world's biggest premium eyewear maker, eyes operating and net profits to grow twice as fast as sales in 2012 if revenues grow BOUYGUES The French conglomerate on Tuesday pledged to cut costs at its telecoms business to help offset an expected 10 percent sales slide at the unit in 2012 due in part to the arrival of fresh competition in France. TRANSOCEAN A federal judge in Brazil declined to grant an injunction suspending the Brazilian operations of oil major Chevron and offshore oil-rig contractor Transocean over a November oil spill northeast of Rio de Janeiro, providing temporary relief to the two companies. PETROPLUS The administrator of Petroplus' UK assets is looking for a large industry player to buy what is seen as the refinery company's prime asset, the Coryton plant, and may still have to shut it as few who are willing have enough resources.