German shares lead Europe lower as concerns over Ukraine mount

Wed Aug 6, 2014 4:07am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.6 pct

* DAX leads stocks lower after Russia moves troops

* Reinsurers lower after results

By Alistair Smout

EDINBURGH, Aug 6 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Wednesday, led by German equities after a resurgence in tension in Ukraine and some weaker-than-expected earnings reports.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.6 percent at 1,326.59 by 0747 GMT, with the German DAX, which is dominated by companies heavily dependent on Russian energy, down 0.8 percent.

Equities fell after reports that Russian troops were massing at the eastern Ukrainian border, where pro-Moscow rebels are in conflict with the Ukrainian government - ratcheting up geopolitical tension in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also ordered his government to prepare retaliatory measures against the latest round of Western sanctions, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.

"The latest catalyst seems to be this sabre-rattling at the border, and the market just has no upward momentum. This talk of tit for tat sanctions is also adding to the risk-off tone," Jeremy Batstone-Carr, analyst at Charles Stanley, said.

The DAX is now down 9 percent since early July.

However, shares bounced off their early lows, and while volatility, a crude gauge of investor fear, ticked higher, it rose by a relatively modest 2.7 percent.

The top faller on the FTSEurofirst 300 was Hannover Re . It dropped 3.6 percent after the German reinsurer said its net profit rose 10 percent to 211.5 million euros ($283 million) in the second quarter, slightly less than expected, as premiums declined.

Fellow reinsurer Swiss Re also declined, by 2.3 percent, after missing profit expectations.

With two-thirds of STOXX Europe 600 companies having reported results, 44 percent have missed expectations, compared to just 26 percent of companies on the U.S. S&P 500 that have fallen short of estimates, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.

However, some companies produced positive surprises on Wednesday, with Belgian insurer Ages beating second-quarter profit expectations due to a sharp rise in life income.

Ages rose 4.3 percent after the results, and the company also announced a new 250 million euro ($334.1 million) share buy-back.

The banking arm of Dutch financial giant ING was another gainer, rising 1.8 percent after it beat earnings forecasts in the second quarter, returning underlying pretax profits of 1.278 billion euros against the 1.137 billion euros expected by analysts.

"We are positive on ING, and expect return on tangible equity to rise to 13 percent by 2016 as loan losses normalise and the Dutch economy continues to recover," analysts at Societe Generale said in a note, describing the update as the "strongest quarterly result in several years."

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

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

Today's European research round-up

(Editing by Susan Fenton)