European shares little changed as earnings boost offsets tepid PMIs
(Reuters) - European shares were little changed on Thursday as strong quarterly results from Unilever and Nestle tempered data showing euro zone businesses unexpectedly slowed this month.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.01 percent by 0940 GMT, retreating from an eight-month high and set to snap a six-day winning streak ahead of the Easter holiday.
Losses in bank-heavy Milan and Madrid indexes led declines, while Germany's DAX edged higher.
The yield on the German 10-year bund fell further after flash Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) data unexpectedly fell to 51.3, a downturn led again by the bloc's manufacturing industry.
The data came on the heels of the German government lowering its forecast for 2019 economic growth on Wednesday, which was overshadowed by better-than-expected economic data out of China.
"We ... have confirmation that we are in a bit of a weak spot in Europe, if you look at the services sector and the composite PMI, and this is the reason why you're seeing stock markets in Europe soften," said Ken Odeluga, market analyst at CityIndex.
"But I think the PMI data is the wrong data at the right time. We are coming to the end of a very short week," Odeluga added.
Also due are retail sales data and flash PMIs from the United States.
Bank stocks fell 0.7 percent, their steepest loss in three weeks.
Shares in Osram were among the biggest percentage losers on the STOXX 600 after a German magazine reported that private equity groups Bain and Carlyle were losing confidence in their bid for the lighting group.
SIGNS OF SLOWDOWN
Kering dropped 3.6 percent and weighed heavily on France's CAC 40 after signs of a slowdown at the French fashion company's Gucci brand, particularly in the United States.
Top gainer in Germany's DAX was Deutsche Post, after the Federal Network Agency cleared the way for the postal company to significantly increase the cost of sending letters after the company pledged to hire an extra 5,000 delivery workers.
Not all earnings were disappointing. The food and beverage sector raked in a 1 percent rise, the most among European sectors, lifted by upbeat earnings from Nestle.
The food group's shares advanced after it maintained its full-year forecast after good momentum in the United States and China.
London and Amsterdam-listed shares of Unilever topped the STOXX 600 after the consumer goods group reported stronger than expected quarterly underlying sales growth, helped by increased prices and volume.
Schneider Electric rose after the French company beat first-quarter revenue estimates.
Lab equipment maker Sartorius Stedim Biotech rose 3 percent after it maintained full-year guidance as first-quarter revenue rose.
French vouchers and card provider Edenred gained 2.3 percent after keeping its outlook for 2019 unchanged. Rival Sodexo was up 0.5 percent.
(Reporting by Medha Singh and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones and David Holmes)
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