European shares edge higher, earnings support

Reuters - UK Focus

* FTSEurofirst 300 index gains 0.3 percent

* Results from Credit Agricole (TLO: ACA.TI - news) , Henkel (Other OTC: HELKF - news) help market

* Fiat (Berlin: FIAT.BE - news) slips on scepticism over a new business plan

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher onWednesday, with strong earnings reports from some companies andencouraging U.S. mortgage data helping lift the market.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shareswas up 0.3 percent at 1,346.80 points by 1216 GMT after fallingearlier to 1,337.75, the lowest since late April.

European equities were helped by encouraging results, withCredit Agricole, France's third-biggest listed bank,rising 5.4 percent to top the FTSEurofirst 300 leader boardafter it reported a 30 percent rise in quarterly net income.

Germany's Henkel rose 4 percent after beatingexpectations with results, while Coloplast (Other OTC: CLPBF - news) gained 3.3percent after beating forecasts and raising its revenue outlook.

The market also got some support after the Mortgage BankersAssociation said its seasonally adjusted U.S. index of mortgageapplication activity rose 5.3 percent in the week ended May 2.

"Any data showing an improvement in the U.S. housing marketis positive for the equity market," said Koen De Leus, senioreconomist at KBC in Brussels.

"And the market could get further support if the currentreporting season indicates that company profits are rising. Itwould also help valuations to look attractive again. Firstindications in Europe, however, point to a limited rise inprofits."

But gains in the wider markets were capped by sharp drops inshares of some companies.

Fiat Chrysler fell 7.5 percent, the biggest falleron the FTSEurofirst 300, as analysts expressed scepticism over aplan to boost sales by 60 percent by 2018 and almost wipe outits debt.

Societe Generale (Paris: FR0000130809 - news) fell 0.6 percent after booking a525 million euro writedown on the value of its Russian unit,blaming heightened uncertainty and a fall in the rouble.Carlsberg (Other OTC: CABGY - news) fell 0.5 percent after reporting aweaker-than-expected first quarter, capped by a weak rouble andfalling sales in Eastern Europe.

Lingering geopolitical tensions have prompted investors totrade cautiously. The European Union and Japan called on Russiaon Wednesday to avoid worsening the crisis in Ukraine andBrussels threatened further sanctions.

"While the Ukrainian crisis has forced many investors andtraders to rethink their short to mid-term investment strategy,with some of them putting their stock buying plans on hold fornow, very few at this stage see the need to actually liquidatetheir portfolios in a major way," Markus Huber, senior salestrader at Peregrine & Black, said.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today's European research round-up (Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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