European shares propped up by chemical and car stocks

Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:03am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct

* Daimler, Akzo rise after forecast-beating results

* Investors keeping wary eye on Ukraine crisis

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - Higher profits at carmaker Daimler and chemicals group Akzo Nobel lifted European shares on Wednesday, offsetting concerns about tighter Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which has fallen back from 6-1/2 year highs over the last month, was up by 0.1 percent at 1,375.59 points going into the close of the trading day.

Akzo Nobel advanced by 4.5 percent after posting higher-than-expected second-quarter earnings, boosting the shares of rival Bayer which advanced 0.8 percent.

The STOXX Europe 600 Automobiles Index rose by 0.4 percent as Daimler posted earnings above expectations, following strong demand for new models of its high-end Mercedes-Benz cars in countries such as China.

"The results season so far has not been too bad," said Mirabaud Securities' European equity sales executive Rupert Baker.

The FTSEurofirst 300 remains some 1.4 percent below its June and July peaks, which marked its highest level in six-and-a-half years.

The index has retreated over the last week after a Malaysian passenger plane was shot down on July 17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev is struggling to quell a pro-Russian separatist rebellion, killing 298 people.

Western powers have accused pro-Russia rebels of having shot down the plane by mistake and the European Union has raised the prospect of restricting Russian access to European capital markets, defence and energy technology.

However, stock markets have not sold off too aggressively in the wake of the crisis between Ukraine and Russia.

Mirabaud Securities' Baker said China was a more important market for German carmakers than Russia.

Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said that while many investors remained concerned about the situation in Ukraine, the majority only saw a small risk of it leading to a more serious conflict between the West and Russia.

Andrew Arbuthnott, head of large-cap European equities at Pioneer Investments, said that while uncertainty over Ukraine could result in more stock market volatility, equities should still offer good returns for investors this year.

"Overall, we believe 2014 can be another positive total return year for the European market, but the volatility associated with those market returns from here is likely to be higher," he said.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up (additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Gareth Jones)