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Europe: Shares slip from 20-month highs; Apple suppliers wobble

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[LONDON] European shares slipped slightly from the 20-month highs they hit in the previous session, as investors locked in profits following some underwhelming company results on Wednesday.

Europe's STOXX 600 index was flat in percentage terms at its close, having spent most of the session in negative territory.

Shares in several Apple suppliers fell after the smartphone giant reported a surprise dip in sales of its flagship iPhone.

Dialog Semiconductor shares slid 2.5 per cent. They had plummeted 14 per cent in April on fears over Apple bringing some of its components in-house. "Dialog has been trying to diversify for a number of years to different sources, but unfortunately if your key relationship is with Apple and that's because you have got great products, there's risk and opportunity very closely aligned in that," said Neil Campling, technology analyst at Northern Trust.

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Peers AMS and STMicro also fell 1.2 and 1.8 percent respectively.

Shares in German luxury retailer Hugo Boss dropped nearly 3 per cent after online sales fell 27 per cent due to fewer visitors to its website.

German bluechip automakers Daimler and BMW were also on the back foot after disappointing April auto sales in the US.

Gains among healthcare stocks supported Germany's DAX index, which rose 0.2 per cent and touched a fresh all-time high.

Fresenius hit a record high, up 2.6 per cent, after it raised its 2017 profit forecast after demand for its generic infusion drugs boosted first-quarter income 28 per cent. "We do not believe investors were anticipating another guidance raise and will be relieved by the Kabi strength," said UBS analysts, referring to the company's infusion segment.

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk jumped to the top of the STOXX 600, up 6.8 per cent after it beat estimates for first-quarter profit and nudged up its full-year outlook.

Elsewhere, underwhelming results weighed on Finland's Nokian Tyres, down 5.7 per cent after it missed estimates for operating profit.

Centamin sank nearly 6 per cent after posting a 28-per cent fall in first-quarter pretax profit. It dragged Europe's miners down 2.5 per cent to a four-month low.

European first-quarter earnings are expected to increase 10.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2016, or 6.2 per cent excluding the energy sector, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Of 111 companies to have reported earnings so far, 70.3 per cent exceeded analyst estimates, above the 49.5 per cent of beats in a typical quarter.

"For the first time in many years we're seeing good momentum and strong earnings growth in European equities," said Chris Dyer, director of global equity at Eaton Vance.

"I think investors are putting money into European equities, we're starting to see that in flow data since the beginning of this year after substantial outflows last year due to political and economic uncertainty coming into 2017."