Bayer buoys European shares; Spain underperforms

Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:56am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct, ESTOXX 50 up 0.3 pct

* Rise in Bayer adds most points to FTSEurofirst

* Spain's IBEX falls 0.6 pct to underperform broader rally

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Gains at major German drugmaker Bayer helped to prop up European equities on Friday, although weak earnings in Spain hit the Madrid market.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,347.93 points in late session trading. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index advanced 0.3 percent to 3,144.77 points.

A 2 percent rise at Bayer, after Bayer lifted its estimate for potential sales of new drugs, added the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300. That helped Germany's DAX rise 0.8 percent to 9,667.67 points, putting it back in sight of its January record high of 9,794.05 points.

However, Spain's IBEX fell 0.6 percent and missed the broader rally. Spanish builders FCC and Sacyr fell 7.2 percent and 3.1 percent respectively after each reported losses for 2013.

Although Spain and Italy have shown signs of an economic recovery from a slump caused by the 2010-2012 euro zone debt crisis, some traders still prefer Germany - Europe's biggest economy - as their favoured European stock market.

"I would look to buy Germany on dips and sell Spain and Italy on rallies," said HED Capital head Richard Edwards.

UKRAINE WORRIES LINGER

Thomson Reuters StarMine data also shows Germany companies have fared better than Spanish ones during the fourth-quarter earnings season. According to StarMine, 58 percent of Spanish companies have beaten or met market expectations with their earnings. In Germany, 63 percent have beaten or met forecasts.

"Corporate earnings have been mixed, but on the whole they haven't been too shabby," said Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities.

Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Keith Bowman and other traders said the ongoing conflict in Ukraine between those who support Russia and those opposed to Moscow could put more pressure on European equities.

On Friday, armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region and ousted President Viktor Yanukovich reappeared in Russia after a week on the run.

"Ukraine is a political risk. As long as the markets are convinced that Russia is not going to take a hard stance on the issue, it is something to watch but not a game-changer," said Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets.

McLaren Securities' Torrison expected European stocks to recover from any dip caused by worries over Ukraine to rally in the second half of this year.

"We might do very little in the first quarter, but I think we should roar away in the second half."