European shares steady after a four-day rout

Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:14am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct

* Index lost 3.8 pct in 4 days, hit weakest since early Jan

* EuroSTOXX 50 recovers from support at 200-day MA

* Sodexo, Nestle hurt by earnings

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher on Thursday, with some investors seeing value after the market's worst four-day fall in nine months, although a crop of weak earnings and global growth concerns kept a lid on gains.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.1 percent at 1,149.24 points , calmer after poise after hitting its lowest intra-day level since Jan. 2 at 1,144.13 on Wednesday.

The pan-European index has lost 3.8 percent since last Thursday's close - its worst four day run since July 2012. It is now down around 5.1 percent from the 4-1/2 year peaks hit last month.

"It seems that there is some (buying) in the European session today but it could still change as we have some important (economic) figures coming from the U.S. and recent U.S. data has disappointed with regards to expectations," said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

He was referring to weekly jobless numbers and the Philadelphia Fed sentiment indexes.

GlaxoSmithKline added 2.9 percent after an advisory panel recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves an experimental treatment for smoking-related lung damage, which GSK makes together with Theravance.

The news prompted several brokerages to raise price targets on the British firm.

Overall, though, the corporate news flow was more mixed, with the earnings season delivery a string of disappointments.

French catering group Sodexo led the losers, down 6.7 percent, after reporting a below forecast first half operating profit, while heavyweight Swiss-listed food giant Nestle fell 1.4 percent after undershooting on quarterly sales.

Dutch paints and chemicals group AkzoNobel, meanwhile, managed to meet earnings expectations but its shares still dropped 4.3 percent as the company said it saw no improvement in the business environment.

Overall, STOXX Europe 600 companies are set to undershoot first quarter earnings expectations by 3.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.

With fundamentals looking weak, technical charts offered some support to the main European indexes, although with the scope for further weakness.

The EuroSTOXX 50 benchmark of euro zone blue chips added 0.6 percent to 2,567.86 points after managing to find strong technical support around the 200-day moving average on Wednesday, and to close above the 61.8 percent Fibonacci retracement of its November to January rally.

"For now, there is a chance that we stay between 100- and 200-day moving average and see some stabilisation. But it looks like this consolidation isn't over," said Petra Kerssenbrock, technical analyst at Commerzbank.

"There are a number of companies that are already below (200-day moving averages) and if it were to expand further then the next level would be something like 2,500 ... which is also a big psychological level."

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