Europe shares flat; banks fall as drugmakers rise

By Joanne Frearson

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – European shares were flat in morning trade on Thursday, with a fall in bank stocks after disappointing Societe Generale (SOGN.PA: ) results offsetting gains in industrial engineers and drugmakers.

By 0943 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: ) index was up 0.01 percent at 1,015.19 points, after rising for three consecutive days. The index which lost around 26 percent in 2009 is down 3 percent this year.

“There has been some mixed earnings this morning,” said Bernard McAlinden, market strategist at NCB Stockbrokers.

“But the euro is also down at near a nine-month low against the dollar suggesting worries about the peripheral economies are still there.”

Banks took the most points off the index. French bank Societe Generale fell 5.3 percent after traders expressed disappointment at the fourth-quarter figures.

Banco Santander (SAN.MC: ), Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX: ) and Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA: ) slipped 0.6 to 2.1 percent.

Carmakers were among the worst performers. Daimler (DAIGn.DE: ) dropped 8.2 percent after it said it would skip a dividend for 2009 results after it posted a 1.51 billion euro ($2.05 billion) loss before interest and tax.

BMW (BMWG.DE: ), Fiat (FIA.MI: ) and Peugeot (PEUP.PA: ) slipped 1.8 to 2.8 percent.

AKZONOBEL SLUMPS AFTER Q4

Chemical makers were on the downside. Dutch chemical group AkzoNobel (AKZO.AS: ) slumped 8.2 percent after it reported a worse-than-expected 4 percent rise in fourth-quarter operating profit.

Miners were lower after metal prices retreated, with copper down 1.3 percent as the dollar strengthened.

Anglo American (AAL.L: ), Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ) and Xstrata (XTA.L: ) lost 0.6 to 1.6 percent.

But industrial engineers were in demand. Swiss engineering group ABB (ABBN.VX: ) rose 4.5 percent after fourth-quarter results as it said it was looking to slash costs by an extra $1 billion.

Drugmakers were in favor as investors stuck with defensive stocks. Novartis (NOVN.VX: ), Roche (ROG.VX: ) and Sanofi Aventis (SASY.PA: ) gained 0.4 to 0.9 percent.

French electric equipment company Schneider Electric (SCHN.PA: ) was 2.3 percent higher after it vowed to improve its profitability in 2010 and expected single-digit sales growth after a sales slump in 2009 and a margin drop.

Swiss Re (RUKN.VX: ) was up 2.1 percent after it swung to a 2009 net profit and strengthened its capital position.

Across Europe, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was up 0.2 percent, Germany’s DAX (.GDAXI: ) slipped 0.04 percent and France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI: ) was 0.01 percent lower.

Stock Today

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

Europe shares flat; banks fall as drugmakers rise