European shares flat, upbeat China data offsets Greece worry

Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:12am GMT

* Miners among top fallers on macro concerns

* Publicis rises, upbeat on October

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - European stocks were flat on Monday as growing concerns over Greece were offset by robust Chinese economic data.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was trading at 1,097.58 by 0957 GMT, steadying after last week's 1.6 percent drop.

Tensions surrounding Europe remained elevated. Although Greece approved a tough 2013 budget over the weekend, euro zone finance ministers are not now expected to release a new loan tranche to the country on Monday as there is no agreement yet on how to make its debt sustainable.

But investors took heart from numbers out of China showing export growth climbed to a five-month high above 11 percent, beating expectations and adding to recent data suggesting the country's seven straight quarters of slowing growth have ended.

"Markets will probably be capped on the upside - but with a positive bias," said Gerhard Schwarz, head of equity strategy at Baader Bank. "We saw another set of constructive figures from China... (but) there's also the euro zone finance minister meeting likely not to take any concrete steps (on Greece)."

Miners were among the biggest fallers on Monday in spite of the buoyant China data, as investors focused on weak GDP data out of Japan, worries over Europe, and the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff".

The fiscal cliff - of about $600 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes set to begin at the start of 2013, which may jeopardise growth - has long been an issue, but has returned to prominence in recent days as markets' focus turns to the post-election political landscape.

Among the risers, French advertising group Publicis added 2.9 percent after saying demand for advertising rebounded in October. London-listed peer WPP was boosted by the news, climbing 1.9 percent.

Third-quarter earnings overall have proved mixed, with 43 percent of European companies missing earnings expectations so far, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.

Aero electronics group Cobham was a big faller in London, off 7.5 percent, after the company warned its 2013 sales were set to fall due to growing pressure on U.S. defence budgets.

"Big week for equities as many... have recently started to show signs of fatigue. If this continues it could well mean that the highs for equities for this year are in and the usual year-end rally not happening in 2012," said Lex van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital, which manages around $500 million of assets.