European shares end higher on earnings optimism, GKN surges
* FTSEurofirst 300 index finishes 0.3 pct higher
* GKN, Next, Orange advance after earnings reports
* Caution on concerns of more sanctions against Russia
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) - European equities climbed on Tuesday, with strong earnings reports from companies such as engineer GKN and retailer Next outpacing the threat to the region's economy from further sanctions against Russia.
GKN surged 6.7 percent after its car parts supply division boosted first-half profits, while clothing retailer Next gained 2.6 percent after raising its guidance for annual sales and profit. Telecom firm Orange was up 1.8 percent after results.
"Markets are receiving a bid from better-than-expected earnings. It's understandable why markets remain buoyant even with current geopolitical risks," Michael Jarman, head of equity strategy at H2O Markets, said.
"However I believe that markets are trading at fair value and I see upside stock market returns as limited ... so protecting your portfolio is something that investors should start to consider."
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed 0.3 percent higher at 1,373.40 points.
According to Thomson Reuters StarMine data, 32 percent of companies in the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported second-quarter results so far, of which 60 percent have met or beaten analysts' expectations.
Generally, about 48 percent companies beat analysts' earnings per share estimates in a quarter. The second quarter earnings are expected to grow by 14.2 percent from the corresponding period last year.
"Going forward, the earnings season should be decent and I expect more surprises on the upside than on the downside. The economy generally appears to be a lot stronger," Peter Dixon, equity strategist at Commerzbank, said.
The market also got some support in late trading after data showed U.S. consumer confidence jumped in July to a monthly high not seen since October 2007.
However, investors were cautious on the risk of more sanctions against Russia.
Oil major BP fell 2.5 percent despite posting a 34 percent increase in its profit. BP said more sanctions "could have a material adverse impact" on its joint venture in Russia.
"Politicians are under increased pressure to implement much more aggressive sanctions, which not only run the risk of retaliation from Russia but also might hurt the European economy itself," Markus Huber, sales trader at Peregrine & Black, said.
U.S. and European leaders have agreed to impose wider sanctions on Russia's financial, defence and energy sectors as Ukraine said its forces advanced towards the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17.
On the downside, Belgian insurer Ageas slumped 7.6 percent after a Dutch court said that financial group Fortis, which was carved up in 2008 and superseded by Ageas, misled shareholders in the run-up to its bailout.
Portugal's troubled bank Banco Espirito Santo fell 10.6 percent. A Luxembourg court accepted requests for creditor protection filed by Espirito Santo Financial Group, which is the largest shareholder in Banco Espirito Santo.
Carmaker Renault dropped 4.6 percent as its sales and cash flow suffered ahead of the replacement of key models, while Deutsche Bank was up just 0.1 percent after reporting a 16 percent rise in quarterly pre-tax income.
The spectre of costly litigation and settlements cast a shadow over Deutsche Bank's results, with the bank topping up reserves for future litigation by 22 percent to 2.2 billion euros.
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 Jeremy Gaunt and Susan Fenton)