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Europe: Shares fall weighed down by poor earnings; Reckitt up


[MILAN] European shares slipped on Thursday, weighed down by disappointing earning updates from Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk and German lender Deutsche Bank, although Reckitt Benckiser was boosted by news of talks to buy US rival Johnson Nutrition.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 0.3 per cent, while Britain's FTSE outperformed with a gain of 0.5 per cent after the Bank of England appeared to be in no rush to tighten monetary policy in its latest inflation report.

After an 11 week-long rally on hopes of a big stimulus boost under the new US administration, investors have turned more cautious over Donald Trump, expressing concerns over the impact of his controversial protectionist policies.

That has caused European shares to come off 13-month highs hit last month, with the Stoxx 600 down around one per cent so far this week, on track for its biggest weekly loss since the US presidential election in early November.

"I think you can blame some of that on Trump 'the trade warrior', while after the election everybody was only thinking about him being profligate," said Arne Petimezas, analyst at AFS Group in Amsterdam.

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Deutsche Bank fell 5.2 per cent after posting a net loss of 1.9 billion euros (S$2.89 billion) in the fourth quarter as legal costs for past misdeeds outstripped gains from a rebound in bond trading.

"The bank is still undergoing a significant restructuring process and... the numbers don't really shed any further light on whether the bank will need to raise extra capital, in order to meet future international bank liquidity rules," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

Novo Nordisk dropped 7.3 per cent after the world's top maker of diabetes drugs said fourth-quarter operating profit came in below forecasts.

Mercedes maker Daimler fell 2.7 per cent after its fourth-quarter results missed expectations, hampered by slowing US and China auto market growth as well as persistently weak truck demand.

However, some companies reported solid earnings and the overall earnings picture stayed positive.

Thomson Reuters data shows one-fifth of the firms in the Stoxx 600 have announced fourth-quarter results so far, of which 57 per cent have beaten forecasts and 4 per cent have met. Their earnings in the quarter are seen up around 10 per cent from the same period of 2015.

Better than expected results from tech companies Nokia and Dassault System, which rose 5.8 and 6 per cent respectively, gave a boost to the European Stoxx Tech index which rose almost 2 per cent to its highest level in more than 14 years.

Reckitt Benckiser rose 4 per cent after announcing that it was in advanced talks to buy baby formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition in a US$16.7 billion deal.

"The market's initial reaction to the deal is positive, and we can see why. RB's track record of reinvigorating brands is a strong one, and they already have strong sales links into pharmacies and supermarkets globally," said Steve Clayton, a fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Generali rose 1.8 per cent. Speculation that Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo was close to tabling a bid for the insurance group boosted its shares, traders said, despite strong denials from the lender.

Its gains helped Italy's FTSE MIB blue chip index outperform with a gain of 0.8 per cent. Intesa fell one per cent as some investors questioned the rational of the potential deal, which could also put its generous dividend policy at risk.


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