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Earnings drag on European shares, though Vodafone lifts telcos

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European shares ended little changed on Tuesday as disappointing earnings updates weighed on banks and pharma stocks, but a well-received outlook from Vodafone helped Britain's FTSE 100 touch a record high.

[LONDON] European shares ended little changed on Tuesday as disappointing earnings updates weighed on banks and pharma stocks, but a well-received outlook from Vodafone helped Britain's FTSE 100 touch a record high.

Germany's DAX also hit a fresh all-time peak before reversing course to end flat. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended little changed, while France's CAC fell 0.2 per cent.

The FTSE 100 index rose 0.9 per cent, however, buoyed by a near 4 per cent rise in Vodafone as investors overlooked its 6.1 billion euro (S$9.35 billion) net loss for the year through March and focused instead on its forecast for earnings growth in the current year.

Analysts at Jefferies highlighted Vodafone's strong cost reduction as supporting its confident dividend growth guidance.

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Vodafone lifted Europe's telecoms sector, which is up 4.8 per cent so far this year but remains among the weakest sectoral performers, and has underperformed a 9.6 per cent gain in the broader Stoxx 600 index.

"At the moment it's a moderate performance by the sector as a whole," said Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, adding that weakness in BT has weighed on the sector.

"As we've seen with Vodafone, its margins are the best in Europe and organic service revenue growth in Europe is still in the single digit percentage points, so it's highly competitive. That's why you see (firms) like Vodafone looking overseas to Africa, India, where it's faced its biggest troubles in the year," Mr Odeluga said.

Healthcare was weakened by a 6.8 per cent drop in BTG's shares after the British healthcare firm published its full year figures, disappointing with a slower-than-expected growth forecast.

Likewise disappointing updates also hit shares in budget airline easyJet, lender CYBG and support services firm DCC.

As the first-quarter earnings season gathers pace the overall picture, however, is a bright one for Europe. Of the 76 per cent of companies that have reported first-quarter updates, 66 per cent have beaten analysts' expectations, pointing to earnings growth of around 20 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

Swedish packing materials firm BillerudKorsnas saw its shares drop 3 per cent, touching their lowest level since July 2016, after warning of a significant financial impact in the second quarter following a breakdown of a pulp line at its Gruvon Mill.

Banking stocks were also weak, with UBS down more than 2 per cent, extending losses from the previous session after Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Limited cut its stake in the Swiss bank at a loss.

Europe's energy sector also provided support earlier in the session as the oil price rose on expectations of extended supply cuts, before easing to trade flat.

REUTERS

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