* FTSEurofirst 300 ends steady after choppy trading
* Results from Credit Agricole, Henkel support
* Fiat slips on scepticism over a new business plan
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, May 7 European equities inched higher on
Wednesday as positive company earnings narrowly outweighed a
sharp fall in Fiat shares over scepticism about its new business
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
ended 0.1 percent up at 1,344.65 points after falling earlier in
the day to 1,337.75, the lowest since late April.
Credit Agricole, France's third-biggest listed
bank, rose 6.8 percent to top the FTSEurofirst 300 leader board
after reporting a 30 percent rise in net income in the first
Germany's Henkel climbed 5.4 percent after
beating expectations with results, while Coloplast
gained 4.3 percent after surpassing forecasts and raising its
"European earnings have not been as good as U.S. company
results in the first quarter, but their medium- to longer-term
outlook is positive," Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP
Paribas Fortis Global Markets, said.
"European earnings will improve going forward as a lot of
companies have cut costs and are now lean and mean, which means
that their earnings will improve with an economic recovery."
The biggest faller on the FTSEurofirst 300 was Fiat Chrysler
, which tumbled 11.7 percent as investors were
unconvinced by its plan to boost sales by 60 percent by 2018 and
almost wipe out its debt, analysts said.
Fiat's tumble helped drag Italy's benchmark FTSE MIB index
down 1.3 percent, while a 7.5 percent drop in shares of
aerospace and defence group Finmeccanica on the back
of lower-than-expected earnings also took their toll.
Experian, the world's biggest credit data company,
fell 6.5 percent, despite reporting an 8 percent rise in annual
earnings, as its Chief Executive Don Robert said growth in the
first half could be constrained.
According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 47 percent of
companies in the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported
first-quarter results so far, of which 48 percent have met or
beaten expectations, while the rest have missed.
"The market could get further support if the current
reporting season indicates that company profits are rising,"
said Koen De Leus, senior economist at KBC in Brussels.
"It would also help valuations to look attractive again.
First indications in Europe, however, point to a limited rise in
The broader European stock market's recovery late in the
session was helped by news that Russian President Vladimir Putin
had called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a
vote on secession just five days before it was to be held.
"While the Ukrainian crisis has forced many investors and
traders to rethink their short to mid-term investment strategy,
with some of them putting their stock buying plans on hold for
now, very few at this stage see the need to actually liquidate
their portfolios in a major way," Markus Huber, senior sales
trader at Peregrine & Black, said.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)