* FTSEurofirst 300 index rises 0.16 percent
* A.P. Moller-Maersk shares rise after results
* BNP Paribas falls on U.S. probe concerns
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, May 21 European shares edged ahead on
Wednesday, with Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk
a major gainer after it reported first-quarter net profit above
forecasts and raised its outlook for the underlying result in
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.16
percent at 1,359.16 points by 1215 GMT, helped by a 3.5 percent
gain in Maersk shares.
"Our quant model has a 12-month return forecast of 10
percent (for Maersk). Today's results will likely increase
estimates and return forecast. We remain positive on Maersk in
2014," Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, said.
But index gains were capped by falls in individual stocks
prompted by specific company news.
WM Morrison fell 3.3 percent, the top decliner on
the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after Deutsche Bank analysts cut
their rating on the company to "sell" from "hold".
And BNP Paribas fell 1.7 percent after Bloomberg reported
that U.S. authorities were seeking more than $5 billion from the
bank to settle investigations into its dealings with sanctioned
Reuters reported last week, citing people familiar with the
matter, that France's biggest listed bank was in talks with U.S.
authorities to pay more than $3 billion to resolve probes into
whether it violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, Sudan and other
Daniel McCormack, strategist with Macquarie, said that in
the very near term investors should focus on companies that can
deliver on earnings and give credible guidance.
"More longer term, you do want to be focused on cyclicals
such as industrials and financials because we are in an early
stage of an upswing," he said.
According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, 83 percent companies
on the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported results so
far, of which 51 percent have missed analysts' earnings
expectations. On the revenue front, 55 percent companies have
Defensive sectors such as utilities, up more than 2
percent so far this month, continued their recent run of
outperformance against the broader STOXX 600 index,
which has managed only a flat showing in May.
"We have a slight bearish bias in this market because sector
rotation, both in the U.S. and in Europe, shows that investors
are moving back into defensive sectors," Valerie Gastaldy, head
of technical analysis firm Day-By-Day, said.
"But we need price signals to call for a clear downtrend,
and we do not have them yet."
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Keiron