* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.16 pct
* Warning from heavyweight Shell adds to earnings concerns
* Accor's beat offers some cheer
By Toni Vorobyova
LONDON, Jan 17 European shares steadied around
5-1/2 year highs on Friday, with gains pegged back by a profit
warning from oil major Royal Dutch Shell which
followed a crop of weak earnings from heavyweight U.S. companies
Shell shares fell some 3 percent after it warned that fourth
quarter figures would be significantly lower than recent levels
The news saw Britain's FTSE 100 - where Shell's A and B
shares together make up around 8 percent of the index - lag
other European bourses.
The impact, though, was felt broadly, with Shell also taking
1.3 points off the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300. The
broad index was up 0.16 percent at 1,339.93 points by 0821 GMT,
holding around recent highs at levels last seen in mid-2008.
The warning fed into investor concerns that the fourth
quarter results season will fail to deliver the strong earnings
growth that analysts say is needed to justify the current high
equity valuations and to enable further price gains in future.
European companies only start reporting earnings next week,
but in the United States the past day has brought disappointment
from the likes of Intel, Goldman Sachs and
Citigroup, hitting equity markets and sentiment globally.
"People are mainly looking at where earnings are going after
lots of disappointing earning in the U.S. last night. There is
lots of talk about a correction coming up. I still think
underlying sentiment is good, but we probably will have a bit of
a fall back," said Neil Marsh, strategist at Newedge.
Essilor added to investor concerns, with the
world's largest maker of ophthalmic lenses missing its 2013
sales goal. Its shares - which had rallied 11.6 percent in the
past month - fell 2.8 percent on Friday.
"This downturn could raise some worries about the 2014
outlook for European sales, particularly in France," analysts at
Societe Generale said in a note.
"After its recent rally, the stock price should be under
pressure even if this is not a big miss."
Overall, STOXX Europe 600 companies seen missing
fourth quarter consensus by 0.4 percent on revenues and by 0.9
percent on earnings, according to StarMine SmartEstimates, which
focus on the up-to-date predictions by the historically most
One bright spot, though, came from Accor, with
shares in Europe's largest hotel group up 1.7 percent after it
raised its operating profit goal for 2013.