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Europe: Luxury stocks sparkle, Wirecard weighs on Dax

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Luxury stocks were a silver lining for European markets on Wednesday after strong results from LVMH reassured investors, while looming US-China trade talks kept trading muted and some earnings disappointments weighed.

[LONDON] Luxury stocks were a silver lining for European markets on Wednesday after strong results from LVMH reassured investors, while looming US-China trade talks kept trading muted and some earnings disappointments weighed.

Europe's Stoxx 600 traded sideways before closing up 0.25 per cent and was on track for its best monthly performance since October 2015.

Britain's FTSE 100 jumped 1.6 per cent thanks to a weaker pound boosting London-listed multinational exporters.

German payments company Wirecard was the worst performer on the pan-European index, falling 13.3 per cent as it denied a report in the Financial Times that alleged financial wrongdoing.

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Frankfurt's was among the few regional indexes trading in negative territory and sent shares in the member of the blue-chip DAX sharply lower.

France's LVMH shares jumped 6.7 per cent after upbeat results from the luxury conglomerate, which said it was "cautiously" confident as fourth-quarter sales held up despite fears of a China slowdown.

"This healthy set of numbers, combined with a positive tone from management, should provide investors with much-needed comfort about the current trends in the luxury market," Berenberg analysts said.

Hermes, Gucci owner Kering, Moncler and Burberry were among the top boosts to the Stoxx 600, rising 3.1 to 5.9 per cent.

Even Italy's Salvatore Ferragamo, which reported a drop in sales, climbed 1.5 per cent as the LVMH beat lifted the luxury sector.

Industrial conglomerate Siemens fell 0.7 per cent as strong order intake softened the blow from weaker-than-expected first quarter industrial profit.

"Highest order intake in 10 years will be viewed positively, but may be overshadowed by the margin miss in EM (Energy Management) and BT (Building Technologies)," UBS analysts said.

Shares in French IT consulting firm Atos surged 6.6 per cent after it said it would distribute 23.4 per cent of shares in its subsidiary Worldline to shareholders.

Atos peer Alten also gained 9.6 per cent after it reported full-year revenue rose in 2018.

Swiss drug ingredients maker Lonza tumbled 7.3 per cent after it said chief executive Richard Ridinger was retiring and reported sales below expectations.

"Ridinger successfully executed a remarkable turnaround of Lonza so will be missed, and given Lonza is only part way through the mid-term outlook period the succession may be viewed as heightening uncertainty," Jefferies analysts said.

German chemicals group Covestro was up 5.4 per cent as traders and analysts said Chinese rival Wanhua hiked its prices for MDI - a material used in polyurethane foams.

Overall, earnings growth expectations have come down in recent months.

European companies listed on the Stoxx 600 index are currently expected to report 3.6 per cent year-on-year earnings growth in the fourth quarter, sharply lower than the 4.8 per cent forecast last week.

"We see earnings growth expectations for 2019 as still too high. We're probably still between 8 or 9 per cent growth for this year and that will probably have to come down to low-to-mid single digits," Britta Weidenbach, head of European equities at DWS, said.

"What is interesting is that some of the stocks already have been punished so hard in the recent downturn, especially at the end of last year, that actually they react rather positively to results that are, in a way, disappointing," Mr Weidenbach said.

REUTERS