European stocks trim gains after ECB rate decision

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.3 pct, halts sharp 3-week retreat

* BNP Paribas’s results help support banking stocks

* ECB keeps rates on hold; investors await press conference

* Euronext index data disrupted by technical problems

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click on [STXNEWS/EU]

By Blaise Robinson

PARIS, May 6 (BestGrowthStock) – European stocks were higher on
Thursday afternoon, as BNP Paribas’s (BNPP.PA: ) forecast-beating
results helped the market halt a sharp sell-off sparked by
escalating fears that the Greek debt crisis could spread.

Stocks slightly trimmed gains after the European Central
Bank kept its main interest rate on hold at a record low of 1.0
percent, as economists had expected, while investors awaited the
central bank’s news conference due at 1230 GMT, to see what the
bank will say on the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis.

At 1200 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: ) index of top
European shares was up 0.3 percent at 1,027.13 points in a
roller-coaster session that saw the index falling by as much as
1.1 percent in early trade, before bouncing back.

France’s BNP Paribas, the euro zone’s second-biggest bank
after Spain’s Santander (SAN.MC: ), rose 2.2 percent after its
strong results overshadowed the bank’s 5 billion euro ($6.7
billion) exposure to Greece that the lender revealed on
Thursday.

Germany’s Commerzbank (CBKG.DE: ) also gained ground, up 4
percent after posting better-than-expected first-quarter results
thanks to strong trading and lower risk provisions.

Europe’s banking index (.SX7P: ) was flat. The sector is down
8.7 percent in 2010, Europe’s biggest sector drop.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index has tumbled around 8 percent over
the past three weeks and strongly underperformed U.S. stock
indexes, beaten down by mounting worries over sovereign debt in
the euro zone.

“Stocks have lost around 10 percent, and we could drop
another 10 percent in the short term. The market will remain
hectic until the billions promised to Greece materialise. But
the (debt crisis) doesn’t change anything for companies, whose
results have been excellent,” said Romain Boscher, chief
investment officer at Groupama Asset Management in Paris.

The 110 billion euro ($147 billion) bailout of Greece
unveiled over the weekend failed to allay concerns on whether
the debt-stricken country can implement tough austerity measures
and worries on the risk of the crisis spreading to other
countries such as Spain and Portugal, whose credit ratings were
downgraded last week.

Investors found some relief in macroeconomic data. German
manufacturing orders rose by 5.0 percent on the month in March,
official data showed, matching the most optimistic forecasts and
completing a strong upturn in demand in the first quarter.
[ID:nLDE645156]

Around Europe, UK’s FTSE 100 index (.FTSE: ) was flat and
Germany’s DAX index (.GDAXI: ) up 0.4 percent.

Euronext said technical problems disrupted European index
data transmission as well as data transmission on all shares on
Lisbon’s stock market, but said the problems would be resolved
in a few minutes.

Investing Basics

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

European stocks trim gains after ECB rate decision