E.ON and Swiss Life prop up European stock markets

Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:45am EDT

* E.ON and Swiss Life rise as results beat forecasts

* Nagging worries over Ukraine crisis limit gains

* FTSEurofirst 300 edges up 0.3 percent

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - European stock markets were steady on Wednesday, supported by gains in utility E.ON and reinsurer Swiss Life shares after forecast-beating results.

However, nagging worries about tensions over Ukraine, where Kiev forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists, limited the market's rebound from a recent sharp slide.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had hit a 6-1/2 year high in late June but then fell back by some 5 percent due to the uncertainty over Ukraine, edged up by 0.3 percent to 1,324.15 points in midsession trading.

A 4.1-percent rise at E.ON gave one of the biggest lifts to the FTSEurofirst 300.

Even though E.ON posted a drop in interim profits, with a warning over the impact of the Ukraine crisis on its Russian business, its shares rose as the results beat analysts' forecasts.

Swiss Life also surged 5.5 percent after Switzerland's largest dedicated life insurer beat expectations with a slight rise in first-half net income, buoyed by a strong performance in its home market.

Even though the situation between Russia and Ukraine remained tense, traders for now were still betting on the situation not escalating too seriously.

"I think the market went down too far, too fast. I'm a buyer at these levels," Zurich-based ACIES Asset Management hedge fund trader and principal, Andreas Clenow, said.

"I think neither side has an interest in a prolonged fight," he said.

Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss bank Reyl, also did not expect a major conflict to develop between Western powers and Russia over Ukraine.

"We are watching the situation very carefully. You never know, suddenly the situation may change, but I do not think Putin will go for a full military intervention."

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 Blaise Robinson; Editing by Louise Ireland)