LONDON Shares in Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) fell on Thursday, with traders citing market talk that the oil giant was telling analysts their forecasts for its fourth-quarter earnings were too optimistic.
Shell's London-traded "A" shares were down 2 percent at 2,280 pence at 12:10 p.m., underperforming a 0.3 percent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 oil and gas sector index .SXEP.
The oil and gas sector was weaker as a whole after Chevron Corp (CVX.N), the second-largest U.S. oil company, warned on Wednesday that fourth-quarter profits would be significantly below the previous quarter.
A Shell spokesman said the company did not make statements about earnings ahead of their official release, to analysts or others.
Financial market rules in Europe and the U.S. forbid companies from divulging market-sensitive information, such as guidance on future profits, to selected market participants, such as analysts or traders.
However, shortly after the end of each quarter, many companies' investor relations departments call analysts to ask for their predictions for quarterly earnings, from which the company then compiles an average forecast.
Analysts say that in some cases companies will hint to them that their forecasts are too optimistic or pessimistic.
Shell is due to report its fourth-quarter earnings on February 2.
(Reporting by Tome Bergin; Editing by Greg Mahlich)