European shares steady near four-month highs but poor earnings weigh

February 21, 2019

MILAN (Reuters) – Optimism over China-U.S. trade talks helped European shares steady near four-month highs on Thursday, although a number of poorly received updates from the likes of utility Centrica, engineer Technip and shipper Moeller-Maersk weighed.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was flat by 0830 GMT, while the trade-sensitive DAX index was up 0.3 percent and France’s CAC 40 added 0.1 percent.

A Reuters report said Washington and Beijing had started to outline commitments on the stickiest issues in their trade dispute, marking the most significant progress yet toward ending a seven-month trade war.

Centrica was the biggest faller on the STOXX 600, down 11 percent after it warned a national price cap on energy bills would hit its 2019 results.

Moeller-Maersk fell 8.7 percent after meeting fourth-quarter expectations, while TechnipFMC also tumbled more than 7 percent as the oil services company posted a fourth quarter loss.

Prysmian was another heavy faller, down 9 percent, after the Italian cable maker said a system failure was detected in its Westernlink Interconnection.

Barclays rose 4 percent. Even though the UK bank reported a lower than forecast attributable profit, it did show signs of progress in its under-pressure investment bank, where profit for the full year increased as its equities trading unit saw income rise 25 percent.

Still in the UK, BAE Systems fell 5.9 percent. Britain’s biggest defense company said German moves to block exports to Saudi Arabia could hit its major deals with the Kingdom.

(Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Editing by Helen Reid)

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