April 19, 2018 / 8:20 AM / 2 years ago

Publicis leads as earnings dominate Europe's trading session

LONDON (Reuters) - Advertising group Publicis and industrial stocks led European shares on Thursday as strong results spurred them higher, while the main indexes stalled, showing signs of fatigue after a two-day rally took them to six-week highs.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Staff/File Photo

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended flat, while European bourses closed little changed - Paris' CAC 40 .FCHI was up 0.21 percent, while Germany's DAX .GDAXI lost 0.17 percent.

With no major macroeconomic news, earnings dominated trading and Publicis (PUBP.PA) led the pack with its shares rising to the top of the STOXX after delivering a first-quarter sales beat helped by a rebound in North American activities.

Its shares jumped 7.3 percent, boosting the media sector .SXMP.

“The fact we have now had a second agency group (after U.S. firm Omnicom on Tuesday) report top-line positive organic revenue growth should reassure”, Liberum analysts said.

Publicis’ British rival WPP (WPP.L) also gained 3.6 percent as the results helped improve sentiment towards agencies.

Industrial groups also shone, with Swiss industrial equipment maker ABB (ABBN.S) rising 4.6 percent after reporting its best start to the year since 2015, while rival Siemens (SIEGn.DE) rose 1.4 percent.

There was also disappointing news on the earnings front, though, with the results of Philip Morris (PM.N) in the United States triggered falls across the tobacco sector in Europe. British American Tobacco (BATS.L) and Imperial Brands (IMB.L) shed 5.4 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.

Novartis (NOVN.S) shares fell 1.9 percent as Baader Helvea analysts pointed to a weaker first-quarter performance for its Sandoz unit in the United States, and lower than expected profitability in the Innovative Medicine segment.

Results from Nestle (NESN.S) and Unilever (ULVR.L), meanwhile, reignited concerns about large consumer goods firms’ pricing power .

Unilever declined 2.1 percent and Nestle ended up 0.2 percent.

“We expect chronically weak pricing from both Unilever and Nestle to play to the market’s fears of weak pricing power, fueled by channel shift, in the face of rising commodities,” said Jefferies analysts in a note.

Tech stocks also held the STOXX back, with chipmakers AMS (AMS.S), Siltronic (WAFGn.DE), STMicro (STM.MI), and ASML (ASML.AS) down between 3 and 6 percent after Taiwan Semiconductor (2330.TW) reported weaker than expected results.

Merger and acquisition news also drove some big share price moves. Shares in Britain’s Shire SHP.L jumped 5.9 percent as Botox maker Allergan (AGN.N) and Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical (4502.T) entered competing talks to acquire it, in a deal set to top $60 billion.

Weir Group (WEIR.L) shares jumped 6.2 percent to the top of the STOXX after the firm agreed to acquire U.S. mining tools maker ESCO for $1.05 billion.

(For a graphic on 'Euro zone earnings revisions' click reut.rs/2JXqtKR)

Reporting by Helen Reid and Julien Ponbthus; Editing by Danilo Masoni and Mark Potter

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