Mixed corporate updates see European shares stall at resistance

Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:10am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 0.1 pct lower, EuroSTOXX down 0.3 pct

* ASML surges after earnings beat, ABB hit by profit warning

* Index loses momentum for second straight session

* Italian shares outperform euro zone peers

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - European shares pulled back from near 5-1/2 year highs on Wednesday, giving up early gains as mixed earnings reports kept the market from pushing through recent resistance.

Dutch technology firm ASML was the standout individual mover, surging 6.9 percent to be the FTSEurofirst's top riser after it beat forecasts for its fourth-quarter results and reiterated its upbeat outlook for first-half sales.

Swiss engineer ABB fell 3.8 percent to the bottom of the index after it flagged that its power division would miss profit targets after $260 million in charges due to project delays and restructuring costs.

While 68 percent of companies that have reported so far have beaten or met forecasts for annual earnings, expectations for reports later on in the season are falling as companies such as ABB and Shell have issued profit warnings.

"Earnings have been a bit of a mixed bag. EPS growth predictions are coming down ... and there's an element of companies managing expectations taking place as well," Henk Potts, strategist at Barclays, said.

"In the short term, there is some pressure filtering through. But, saying that, if you look at 2014 earnings forecasts for Europe, they still remain pretty strong. Even if we see a pullback in the short term, in the longer term the fundamentals remain supportive."

By 1126 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst was down 0.1 percent at 1,344.34. It gave away good early gains for a second session in a row, and remained just shy of a fresh multi-year high touched during Tuesday's trade at 1,353.47.

The index is up around 2 percent this year, having gained 16.1 percent in 2013, and broke out of a tight 10-point range a week ago.

The euro zone EuroSTOXX 50 also gave up a strong start to trade down 0.3 percent at 3,145.47, with technical analysts saying the index was due a pullback.

"The EuroSTOXX 50 has already broken above the key 3,050 area, which was previously resistance. There's now a bullish channel, which we're near the top of, so it's natural that we consolidate here. But the bullish trend is still ultimately in place," said Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst at Gain Capital.

Italian shares outperformed euro zone peers, down just 0.2 percent, underpinned by utility Enel and bank Intesa San Paolo, which both benefitted from upgrades by Barclays.

Today's European research round-up

Asset returns in 2013: