Glaxo leads European shares lower at midday

* FTSEurofirst 300 index down 0.2 percent

* Banks gain amid earnings season

* GlaxoSmithKline slips on Avandia safety concerns

By Brian Gorman

LONDON, Feb 22 (BestGrowthStock) – European shares dipped slightly
by midday on Monday, snapping five consecutive days of gains,
with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: ) hit by calls for a key drug to be
withdrawn on safety grounds.

At 1147 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: ) index of leading
European shares was down 0.2 percent at 1,024.55 points. The
index is down 2 percent in 2010, partly on worries about
Greece’s deficit, but is up more than 58 percent from the
lifetime low it hit in March 2009.

“We’re entering a period of drifting,” said Andy Lynch, fund
manager at Schroders. “We’ve had the ‘world is not ending’
rally. We’re now in the harder period. The market needs earnings
upgrades to push it higher, and we’re not seeing huge upgrades
coming through.”

“We’ve probably finished Act One on Greece. But there’s
still a long way to go. The maths of what they need to do to
stabilise (their debt) if horrific.”

GlaxoSmithKline fell 2.3 percent after two U.S. drug safety
reviewers recommended that diabetes drug Avandia be pulled from
the market.

Other fallers in the sector included Roche (ROG.VX: ), Shire
(SHP.L: ) and Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA: ), down between 0.8 and 1.7
percent.

Greece’s central banker said the country was prepared to
take extra fiscal measures to make sure it meets its
deficit-cutting targets, but he said financial markets were
over-reacting to its financial woes. [ID:nLDE61L0TU]

Across Europe, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was up 0.2
percent; Germany’s DAX (.GDAXI: ) and France’s CAC 40 (.FCHI: ) lost
0.2 and 0.1 percent, respectively.

BANKS GAIN

Banking stocks were mostly higher, limiting the index’s
losses amid a largely positive reporting season for the sector.

BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA: ) rose 1.8 percent, extending a rise of
11.5 percent last week, when it reported results.

Other gainers included Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ) and
Lloyds (LLOY.L: ), both up 2.5 percent, ahead of results on
Thursday and Friday respectively.

National Bank of Greece (NBGr.AT: ), EFG Eurobank (EFGr.AT: ),
Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT: ) and Alpha Bank (ACBr.AT: ) rose between 3.1
and 4.2 percent.

However, Bank of Ireland (BKIR.I: ) fell 6.4 percent after the
Irish government took nearly 16 percent ownership of the lender
— its first direct stake, in addition to Ireland’s 25 percent
indirect stake. [ID:nWLB8009]

Commodity stocks were in demand as crude (CLc1: ) and gold
prices rose. Oil stocks BG Group (BG.L: ), BP (BP.L: ) and Statoil
(STL.OL: ) rose 0.4 to 0.8 percent.

Miners Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ) and Xstrata
(XTA.L: ) were up 1.2 to 2 percent.

In individual stock movers, Philips Electronics (PHG.AS: )
gained 1.8 percent. It said it has reached its target for
“green” sales three years ahead of schedule and has set new
targets for 2015. [ID:nLDE61L06E]

Telecoms gear group Alcatel-Lucent (ALUA.PA: ) rose 5.5
percent after BofA Merrill Lynch put the firm on its list of
recommended “buys”.

British distribution and outsourcing group Bunzl (BNZL.L: )
was 3.5 percent higher after it posted full year pretax profit
ahead of forecasts. [ID:nLDE61I1CW]

Stock Market Advice

Glaxo leads European shares lower at midday