European shares steady, UK grocery firms slip

Wed Aug 27, 2014 10:42am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.2 pct

* Seadrill falls after below-forecast earnings

* Marine Harvest results hit by Russian sanctions

* Charts show bullish signals for European indexes

By Atul Prakash and Blaise Robinson

LONDON, Aug 27 (Reuters) - European shares steadied near a one-month high on Wednesday, pausing after a 2-1/2-week rally, as a drop in German consumer morale and negative corporate news curbed appetite for stocks.

Declines in individual shares included UK grocers Sainsbury and Tesco slipping 2.2 percent and 1.3 percent respectively after data from Kantar Worldpanel showed UK grocery market sales rose 0.8 percent in the 12 weeks to Aug. 17, a 10-year low.

And Seadrill, the world's biggest offshore driller by market capitalisation, fell 2.5 percent after its second-quarter earnings missed forecasts.

The impact of the Ukraine crisis and tensions between the West and Moscow were visible again in European company results on Wednesday. Marine Harvest, the world's largest salmon farmer, said it expected Russian sanctions to pose short-term challenges. Its shares fell 2 percent.

Market research group GfK said on Wednesday its forward-looking German consumer sentiment indicator, based on a survey of around 2,000 Germans, fell to 8.6 going into September from a downwardly revised 8.9 in August.

It was the first drop since January 2013 and the biggest decline in more than three years. A Reuters poll had forecast a reading of 9.0.

"Confidence is still clearly dented as a result of the crisis in eastern Ukraine, while the overall slowdown in the euro area is probably itself starting to weigh on consumer and business confidence," Alpari analyst Craig Erlam said.

French stocks slightly underperformed, with France's CAC 40 dipping 0.2 percent, trimming recent sharp gains.

After the close on Tuesday, France's President Francois Hollande replaced his maverick leftist economy minister Arnaud Montebourg with Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild partner, in a reshuffle aimed at reconciling his efforts to revive the stagnant French economy and rein in the deficit.

At 1401 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,377.07 points after edging higher to a one-month peak, following a 6 percent rally since Aug 8. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.2 percent.

Analysts, however, stayed positive on the market's outlook.

"European indexes have pierced all the resistance zones, such as the trend lines, the 50-day and 200-day moving averages, the 50 percent retracement levels of the latest correction. They're now set to revisit 2014 highs," Aurel BGC analyst Gerard Sagnier said.

European stocks have rallied as fears of an escalation in the Ukrainian crisis eased and comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi fuelled speculation the ECB could embark on a large-scale asset-buying scheme to revive the economy and inflation.

Late on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised after negotiations with Russia's Vladimir Putin to work on an urgent ceasefire plan to defuse the separatist conflict in the east of his former Soviet republic.

Speaking last Friday at a global central banking conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank was prepared to respond with all its "available" tools should inflation drop further.

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in remarks published in a newspaper on Wednesday that European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi had been "over-interpreted" after suggesting that fiscal policy could play a greater role in promoting growth.

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

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

Today's European research round-up (Editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton)