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Europe: Shares steady at 4-week low; Nokia plunges after results

[MILAN] European shares steadied near 4-week lows on Thursday as investors digested a raft of mixed earning updates and awaited the European Central Bank's decision on monetary policy.

Nokia was the biggest faller, down 14 per cent, after the Finnish firm reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings from its mainstay networks gear business, saying the market had turned more challenging.

"Difficult to say at this stage how much lower consensus could go given all the negative wording on 2018", Morgan Stanley analysts said.

Nokia's decline helped drag the pan-European STOXX 600 index down 0.1 per cent by 0715 GMT, while UK's FTSE 100 inched up 0.1 per cent and Spain's IBEX fell 0.2 per cent, as uncertainty over the Catalonia crisis weighed.

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Banks were among the biggest sectoral fallers, down 0.6 per cent with Barclays tumbling 5 per cent after it posted a worse than expected profit before tax for the third quarter of £1.1 billion (S$1.98 billion) due to a weak trading performance in its investment bank.

Deutsche Bank also fell two per cent. Germany's flagship lender posted a 10 per cent drop in revenue in the third-quarter as it grapples with a major restructuring in a weak market.

Losses in Nokia and banks, however, were nearly offset by gains among companies including MTU Aero Engines, Neste and STMicro following strong results.

A key focus later in the day will be the ECB's policy decision. The central bank is all but certain to cut back on its bond-buying stimulus, taking its biggest step yet in unwinding years of loose monetary policy.

REUTERS