3 Min Read
* STOXX 600 up 0.1 pct
* Miners, energy biggest weights
* Petrofac slumps after suspends executive
* Zodiac, Safran reach deal (Recasts, adds quote and detail, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, May 25 (Reuters) - European shares struggled to keep gains on Thursday in choppy trade as falls in commodity-facing firms weighed, with investors hunting for fresh direction in the aftermath of Europe's blistering first quarter earnings season.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up just 0.1 pct, dipping in and out of positive territory and still below holding below 21-month highs. Euro zone blue chips were 0.2 percent higher.
James Butterfill, head of research and investment strategy at ETF Securities, said that now the earnings season is over the next points to focus on included the U.S. Federal Reserve's announcements, the ECB meeting next month and the UK's general election.
"We've seen very strong inflows last week into safe havens ... so clearly people are being cautious," ETF Securities' Butterfill added.
Trading volumes were thin, as Austrian and Nordic markets were closed for a holiday.
Miners were led lower by a fall among steelmakers ArcelorMittal and Tenaris, which dropped 2 percent and 1.4 percent respectively as the price of iron ore extended losses for a third day in a row.
Oilfield services provider Petrofac was the biggest STOXX faller, slumping nearly 30 percent after suspending its Chief Operating Officer Marwan Chedid amid a fraud investigation.
French aerospace supplier Zodiac gained 0.2 percent after accepting a reduced offer from aero engine maker Safran, following a series of profit warnings. Safran's shares rose 1.1 percent.
Analysts at Barclays said the offer was better than expected, but they had doubts about the strategic rationale of the deal. "Having high conviction in forecasts is a challenge given Zodiac's enduring volatility," they said in a note.
The European banking sector was slightly higher, with shares in Credit Suisse and Spain's Banco Popular , BBVA and Santander all gained between 0.4 percent to 0.9 percent, supporting Spain's IBEX which rose 0.5 percent.
A handful of firms reported earnings, with Britain's Intermediate Capital Group jumping around 7 percent after its full-year results, and GVC Holdings also rose nearly 4 percent after a first-quarter update.
British media group Daily Mail and General Trust dropped more than 7 percent, set for its biggest one-day loss in more than a year after its first-half results disappointed.
Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Tom Heneghan