Siemens leads rebound in European shares

Thu Nov 8, 2012 9:41am GMT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 percent at 1,103.43 points

* Euro STOXX 50 rises 0.8 pct to 2,497.74 points

* Siemens and Swiss Re rise after results

* Fall in German exports underlines weak economic backdrop

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Reassuring earnings from major companies including Siemens helped European stock markets rebound on Thursday, although gains were seen limited by fresh signs that the region's economy remains weak.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index was up by 0.4 percent at 1,103.43 points in morning trade, recovering from a 1.4 percent fall during the previous session.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index advanced by 0.8 percent to 2,497.74 points.

Engineering conglomerate Siemens rose by 4.3 percent to add the most points to the FTSEurofirst 300, after it reported a smaller-than-expected fall in profits and unveiled planned cost savings of 6 billion euros ($7.7 billion).

However, Cyrille Urfer - who heads up asset allocation at Swiss bank Gonet - said further gains from now until the end of 2012 on European equity markets would be "muted" due to the weak underlying economic backdrop.

Europe's economic problems were highlighted again on Thursday by data showing that German exports had fallen at their fastest pace since December 2011.

"We are hoping to get some more additional movement up by the end of the year, but I think the rally will be a muted one. I see a three-to-five percent movement higher at best, from current levels," said Urfer.

EARNINGS REASSURE DESPITE LOWER PROFITS

Urfer's asset allocation is currently evenly split between European and U.S. equities, with American stock markets facing their own worries over the U.S. "fiscal cliff" of about $600 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes that could take effect in early 2013.

Although the FTSEurofirst 300 index has slipped back from a 2012 peak of 1,122.76 points in mid-September, it remains up by some 8 percent since late July.

This was when equity markets rallied after European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi pledged to do "whatever it takes" to protect the euro from Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

Reassuring third-quarter results have also supported European equities over the last month.

According to Thomson Reuters Starmine data, 58 percent of the companies on the STOXX 600 European index to have reported third-quarter results have beaten or met market forecasts, with 42 percent missing forecasts.

Reinsurer Swiss Re also beat market forecasts with its third-quarter results on Thursday, and the company further encouraged investors with the promise of a special dividend.

"We really like Swiss Re and its promise of the special dividend. After such a sharp sell-off in the previous session, the bargain-hunters are coming back in," said MB Capital trading director Marcus Bullus.

However, Gekko Global Markets sales trader Anita Paluch cautioned that the economic backdrop remained gloomy, with Spain still under pressure to accept a sovereign bailout while Greece is struggling to meet the terms of its own rescue deal.

"We are having a reality check right now," she said.