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Europe: Shares pull back from two-week high


[LONDON] European equities fell back after climbing to a two-week high on Thursday, as support from gains in tech shares was counteracted by a decline in commodity related stocks in the energy and mining sectors.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was 0.1 per cent lower at 1,293.92 points by the close, having touched 1,304.97 points earlier in the session - its highest level since Feb. 4.

It had ended 2.7 per cent stronger on Wednesday following a surge in oil prices, but came back from highs as Wall Street turned lower, having posted its first three-day rally of 2016.

Oil and gas shares ended in negative territory after a rise in US crude stocks underlined the glut in supply, putting pressure on oil prices.

The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 5 per cent this week, set for its biggest weekly rise since January 2015. It has been buoyed by a recovery in the price of oil and receding fears over global growth, although the index remains down 10 per cent this year.

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Tech shares rose 1.5 per cent, the biggest sectoral riser, led up by Capgemini.

The French information technology services company gained 4.4 per cent after reporting a 20 per cent rise in full-year operating profit and forecasting a wider operating margin for 2016. "The shares have performed poorly this year on the back of macro concerns, but the overall tone of these results is reassuring," analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

Among other tech stocks, STMicroelectronics rose 5.2 per cent after it was lifted to "neutral" from "sell" by UBS.

Franco-Dutch airline Air France-KLM surged 10.7 per cent after beating forecasts with a return to profit last year, helped by a drop in its fuel bill and growth in passenger traffic.

However, the broader earnings picture remains mixed. About half the companies in the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported results so far, and 47 per cent missed expectations.

Fourth-quarter earnings have fallen 15 per cent from the same quarter of the previous year, Thomson Reuters StarMine shows.

Food group Nestle dropped 3.7 per cent after it missed expectations, saying it was getting harder to raise prices in a tough economy. "It's a difficult environment ... Profit margins are under pressure as companies are not able to raise prices, while productivity is edging lower," said Koen De Leus, senior economist at KBC in Brussels.

Nestle's decline saw Switzerland's SMI underperform euro zone blue chips in France and Germany. Britain's FTSE also lagged, hit by its exposure to commodity stocks.

Some also cited concern Britain could leave the European Union, as Prime Minister David Cameron started crunch talks on keeping the UK in the bloc.

Mining shares came under pressure as some investors booked profits following a rally in the previous session. The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index fell 1.1 per cent, after rising 8 per cent on Wednesday.


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