February 18, 2009 / 8:18 AM / 11 years ago

European stocks little changed early; SocGen rises

LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - European shares traded flat early on Wednesday, breaking a two-day losing run as banks rebounded after big declines in the previous session and investors cheered a quarterly profit at Societe Generale (SOGN.PA).

At 0816 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European shares was up 0.08 percent at 766.02 points, having fallen 2.5 percent on Tuesday. The index is down 8 percent so far this year, led down by banking stocks.

Banks came back strongly in the first minutes of trade, led by SocGen, which jumped 3.7 percent after posting a fourth quarter net profit.

HSBC (HSBA.L), Santander (SAN.MC) and BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) rose 1.2-3 percent, ranking among the top weighted gainers on the European benchmark after the sector fell sharply on Tuesday on fears of losses in emerging Europe.

But heavyweight energy stock BP (BP.L) fell 2.2 percent to weigh on the index as it traded ex-dividend.

Analysts remained wary about any equities recovery.

“For the time being we remain cautious,” said Thierry Lacraz, strategist at Pictet in Geneva.

“The problem is that we don’t have any clear answers from the Obama government regarding the banking rescue package...until we have more visibility on the U.S. banks and more positive wording from companies, it’s difficult to see markets climbing again.”

Brewers Heineken (HEIN.AS) and Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) rose 2.5 percent and 6.7 percent respectively.

Heineken reported earnings slightly below forecasts and Carlsberg came in slightly above expectations. (Reporting by Sitaraman Shankar)

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