European share gains limited by cement makers as FX hits results

Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:20am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat as investors await U.S. GDP, Fed statement

* Cement makers lead declines as forex hits results

* Total's stock hit by worries over Russia investment

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Cement makers lead declines on European equity indexes on Wednesday as Switzerland's Holcim and Germany's HeidelbergCement reported disappointing results, blaming weak emerging-market currencies.

Their shares fell 4.9 percent and 2 percent, respectively, leaving the STOXX Europe 600 down 1 percent. Their sector was the worst performer in Europe.

French electrical-gear maker Schneider Electric, down 3.1 percent, also blamed the depreciation of several currencies against the euro for disappointing sales growth in the first half of the year.

Companies in the STOXX Europe 600 that have reported quarterly results so far have seen their sales drop by an average 1 percent, StarMine data showed.

While stronger currencies in developed Europe played a role in the decline, some strategists were starting to worry about weaker demand in Europe, which is struggling with low growth and inflation.

"It's not so much about the currency, there's no demand from end-customers in Europe," said Claudia Panseri, global equity strategist at Societe Generale. "With prices also falling, I see no growth."

Bucking the trend was French car maker Peugeot, which surged 6.5 percent after it posted the first positive contribution from its core auto division in three years in the first six months of 2014.

Dutch telecoms group KPN rose 4.3 percent after reporting a better-than-expected second-quarter core profit, although it was helped in part by cost cuts.

By 1056 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,373.38 points, after trading little changed to slightly lower for most of the morning.

French oil major Total fell 2.2 percent after saying that it had stopped buying shares in Russia's Novatek the day of the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine.

Investors awaited U.S. growth figures for the second quarter, due at 1230 GMT, as well as the conclusion of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting and its statement set to be released at 1800 GMT.

The Fed, meanwhile, is all but certain to cut its monthly bond-buying programme by another $10 billion.

"People are getting nervous about the impact of the end of the quantitative easing programme on the equity market," FXCM analyst Vincent Ganne said.

"The end of the first quantitative easing programme triggered a sharp correction on the market. It's more gradual this time, but overall equities could suffer outflows in the next months."

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

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

Today's European research round-up (Editing by Larry King)

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