* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.3 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.4 pct
* Euro strength knocks Akzo, SAP
* Remy Cointreau, Diageo report weak China demand
* Major European markets shut on Friday and Monday
(Adds quotes, detail, updates prices)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, April 17 European shares edged lower on
Thursday, weighed down by companies reporting earnings that were
knocked by currency effects and weak demand from China,
confirming a poor start to the earnings season in Europe.
Trade was subdued, with investors unwilling to place strong
bets on moves in either direction before a four-day weekend for
Top faller on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was
Dutch paints and chemicals firm AkzoNobel, down 6.4
percent after lower-than-expected earnings that it blamed on
blamed adverse currency movements.
Also affected by the strong euro was German business
software maker SAP, down 3.4 percent after it warned
that it expected the damage from volatile exchange rates to
worsen in the second quarter.
Many of the factors driving the euro to levels that have set
off alarm bells at the European Central Bank are unlikely to go
away on their own, part of the reason the bank has been
Although it has only just started, European earnings season
has been weak so far. Sixty percent of companies that have
reported results have missed expectations, Thomson Reuters
StarMine data showed.
"I don't think first quarter earnings will be great, as
you've still got a relatively high euro, which will cause a drag
on year-on-year figures," Nick Nelson, European equity
strategist at UBS, said, noting that weak emerging market
currencies only strengthened the euro further.
"The problem with emerging markets is you have a double
whammy of the currency and demand as going against you."
Illustrative of demand problems emanating from emerging
markets, Remy Cointreau dropped 3 percent after it
warned full-year operating profit would plunge as much as 40
percent. Cognac sales sank 32 percent in the fourth quarter as
the Chinese government cracked down on ostentatious spending.
Weakness in Asia also affected Diageo. It fell 4.2
percent, dropping to the bottom of the pan-European FTSEurofirst
300 after reporting a 1.3-percent decline in
third-quarter organic net sales on Thursday.
The maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka has a
stake in China's Shuijingfang. The Chinese company makes baiju,
a white spirit whose sales are being hammered by a government
crackdown on gift-giving.
In all, food and beverage stocks fell 1.4 percent,
the top sectoral faller in Europe, with emerging market stocks
such as Unilever down 1.5 percent.
"Remy and Diageo has been hit by their performance
especially in China, and that's having a knock-on effect onto
other companies that have also in the past posted weak emerging
market figures such as Unilever," said Manoj Ladwa, head of
trading at TJM Partners.
"The Chinese growth story does seem to be fizzling out,
despite the odd market-beating number."
The FTSEurofirst 300 fell 0.3 percent to 1,318.29, retracing
some of the previous session's 1.2-percent gain and remaining
hemmed in recent ranges. The euro zone Euro STOXX 50
fell 0.4 percent.
The FTSEurofirst 300 had surged on Wednesday after Chinese
growth came in ahead of expectations. Even though beverage
stocks suffered from lower Chinese demand, some firms benefitted
from growth in the world's No. 2 economy.
Advertising agency Publicis rose 2.1 percent after
posting revenue growth on a comparable basis in the first
quarter, helped by strong digital sales and an uptick in China
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 Ireland)