* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 percent
* Cautious outlook hits Johnson Matthey
* Staffing firms knocked by Randstad warning
* British Land helped by Morgan Stanley upgrade
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, Nov 21 European shares edged up on
Wednesday in choppy trade as investors watched for any signs of
progress on a delayed deal to unlock aid to keep Greece solvent.
Greece's international lenders will meet again on Monday
after talks through the night failed to achieve a consensus on
how to get the country's debt down to a sustainable level.
Following the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told
lawmakers at a closed-door meeting that lower interest rates and
an expanded European Financial Stability Fund could fill
Greece's financing gap, a source at the session told Reuters.
The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.1 percent at 1,095.39
by 1253 GMT, having oscillated around Tuesday's closing level
throughout the morning, with trading volume at a meagre 30
percent of its 90-day daily average ahead of a U.S. public
holiday for Thanksgiving on Thursday.
The euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50,
meanwhile, was flat at 2,510.69. Charts pointed to further
lacklustre trade for the index, which has been stuck in a near
200-point range since early September.
Philippe Delabarre, technical analyst at Trading Central,
said the Euro STOXX 50 is in consolidation mode, capped by the
50-day moving average at 2,511 points - which is turning down -
and a declining trend line drawn from September's and November's
tops at around 2,550 points.
Gains were kept in check by concern over the U.S. 'fiscal
cliff' of some $600 billion in contractionary spending cuts and
tax rises after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the
central bank lacks tools to cushion the U.S. economy from it.
"The market is trading within a pretty tight range as we
wait for greater details of the financial aid package to be
confirmed for Greece," Henk Potts, market strategist at
"Against a backdrop of the shortened week in the United
States you'd expect markets to remain reasonably nervous given
the fact that many of the big macro issues are still lingering
including the risk of the fiscal cliff."
Among big movers on Wednesday, British Land
advanced 1.9 percent with traders citing an upgrade to
"overweight" from "equal weight" by Morgan Stanley, the day
after the real estate investment trust's first-half results.
The upgrade for British Land also helped peer Land
Securities to rise 1.2 percent.
Johnson Matthey, meanwhile, topped the list of
FTSEurofirst 300 fallers, off 6.3 percent in brisk trade, after
the British specialty chemicals firm issued a cautious outlook,
dented by weakness in Europe and a volatile U.S. truck market.
Trading volume in Johnson Matthey stood at one and a half
times its 90-day daily average.
Other corporate earnings newsflow further underscored the
problems facing the euro zone, with data released last week
showing the region is already back in recession.
Randstad dropped 5.2 percent after the Dutch
staffing company warned of a continued drop in sales, especially
in Europe, and changed its dividend policy, prompting analysts
to expect a dividend cut.
Its trading volume was 125 percent of its 90-day daily
The news had a negative knock-on effect on its peers, with
Adecco and Michael Page off 1.7 percent and
1.3 percent respectively.