* FTSEurofirst 300 roughly flat at 1,160.22 points
* Euro STOXX 50 edges down by around 0.1 pct
* Rio Tinto falls over 3 pct after $14 bln charge
* Worries over corporate results seen pegging back equities
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Jan 17 European shares were flat to a
touch weaker on Thursday after mining company Rio Tinto's
took a $14 billion hit on a pair of deals and chip maker
ASML underlined concern over corporate earnings this
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was roughly
unchanged at 1,160.22 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip
Euro STOXX 50 index slipped 0.1 percent to 2,699.06
Rio Tinto took the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300
index, falling 3.4 percent after announcing the $14 billion
charge and resignation of its chief executive.
"There's been a mixed bag on the earnings front so far,"
said Darren Easton, director of trading at Logic Investments.
"In the short-term, we're in the bear camp," he added.
Easton said Germany's DAX, which was down 0.2
percent at 7,675.95 points, could also fall in the near-term, as
the index had gone below its 20-day moving average level of
around 7,683 points - an indicator often used as a "sell signal"
by some traders.
Dutch group ASML joined Rio at the top of the loser board
for the FTSEurofirst 300 index, falling 3.1 percent after
warning of a weak first quarter.
Liberum Capital kept a "sell" rating on ASML shares.
"We regard ASML as being expensive versus its longer term
revenue and earnings growth outlook," Liberum wrote in a
research note. "While the share has re-rated sharply on the back
of optimistic longer term market expectations, we believe that
actual revenue growth is likely to be somewhat lower."
The FTSEurofirst 300 has risen around 2 percent so far this
The index also reached a near two-year high earlier this
month, having rallied throughout the second half of 2012 as
fading fears of a break-up of the euro zone prompted investors
to scoop up the region's equities.
Yet while most investors and analysts expect European equity
markets to rise over the course of 2013, some have forecast
European stock markets to trade sideways in the first quarter.
Some strategists predict that a bad round of company results
could lead investors to sell shares to book some of the recent
Unicredit equity strategist Christian Stocker said European
company earnings due over the next two months could disappoint.
"The market will remain predominantly in a consolidation
mood following a cautious outlook on earnings. I think European
companies will disappoint a bit, particularly in cyclical
sectors such as automotive and industrial goods and services,"
"We prefer defensive sectors such as food and beverages,
personal household goods and healthcare and will remain on the
defensive side, at least during the earnings season," he added.