European shares hit by weak earnings and rebound in euro

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - A batch of weaker-than-expected corporate results deflated European shares on Wednesday, while a rebound in the euro currency also pegged back the region's stock markets.

Weaker-than-forecast U.S. first quarter economic data added to jitters in financial markets.

The lacklustre U.S. data propelled the euro up to an 8-week high against the U.S. dollar. This in turn hit Germany's DAX , since the DAX contains many companies whose exports have benefited from a sagging euro this year.

"We're seeing a bit of buying pressure coming into the euro, and that's knocking back the DAX," said Logic Investments' Harry Shann.

The DAX, which touched a record high of 12,390.75 points earlier this month, fell 1.3 percent to 11,653.79 points.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had also reached its highest point in more than 14 years earlier this month, retreated 1.1 percent to 1,600.43 points.

Belgian supermarket group Delhaize slid 7 percent, the worst performer on the FTSEurofirst, after reporting lower-than-expected operating profits.

Norsk Hydro, one of the world's largest aluminium producers, also fell 7 percent after posting operating earnings just short of forecasts and cutting its estimate for global primary aluminium demand growth.

Gainers included Telecom Italia, which rose 2.1 percent after Italian paper Corriere della Sera wrote that Vivendi chief Vincent Bollore aims to strengthen the company's stake in Telecom Italia and to later strike an alliance with Mediaset.


Athens' benchmark ATG equity index fell 0.8 percent. The ATG is down by around 3 percent since the start of 2015, underperforming a 17 percent rise on the FTSEurofirst 300.

Government officials said Greece was to present draft reform legislation to lenders on Wednesday to try to show it is serious about acting on pledges to secure aid.

Athens needs to repay loans of about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to the IMF in May. The draft bill is its latest move to speed up negotiations in the hopes of reaching a deal with European and IMF creditors before it runs out of cash.

New economic stimulus measures from the European Central Bank have helped to cushion any negative fallout from Greece.

Record low interest rates set by the ECB, coupled with its plans to buy back government bonds, have pushed investors towards the better returns available from stocks compared with bonds and cash.

Data from Thomson Reuters StarMine has also shown that 64 percent of the companies in the pan-European STOXX 600 index have beaten or met market forecasts with their first quarter results.

Nevertheless, some traders said now might be a good time to cash in on the European stock market rally.

"If corporate results are good you can continue to see positive openings and some stocks will perform very well, but the move yesterday suggests people are taking risk off the table and that can continue at least this week," said Mike Reuter, a broker at Tradition.

Europe bourses in 2015:

Today's European research round-up (Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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