PARIS Jan 23 European shares inched higher on
Wednesday, with a key index moving back towards a near two-year
high hit recently, although a bout of profit taking on banking
and insurance shares limited the market's rise.
Corporate results were in the spotlight, with shares of
Unilever gaining 3.1 percent after the consumer-goods
giant posted better-than-expected sales while Novartis
added 4.1 percent after the Swiss pharmaceuticals group unveiled
a reassuring sales growth forecast.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
provisionally closed 0.2 percent higher at 1,168.00 points, just
a few points below a peak of 1,170.29 points hit two weeks ago,
a level not seen since early 2011.
However, the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50
index fell 0.3 percent to 2,709.83 points, dragged lower by
falling shares of financial institutions after lofty gains so
far this year.
Societe Generale dropped 3.5 percent, Banco
Popolare fell 4.1 percent and Aegon lost 2.2
percent. Despite the day's losses, the STOXX euro zone banking
index is still up 10 percent in 2013, by far the best
"The newsflow on the political and macro side is very thin,
so there's a bit of hesitation to chase the market higher and
we're seeing some rotation between sectors," Saxo Banque senior
sales trader Alexandre Baradez said.
"We need some kind of big positive catalyst,
better-than-expected Apple results for instance, or good macro
U.S. tech major Apple is set to report quarterly
results later on Wednesday.