* STOXX 600 down 0.3 pct
* Germany’s DAX, Britain’s FTSE hit fresh highs
* Vodafone leads telcos after results
* Updates weigh on BTG, CYBG, easyJet (Adds detail and quote, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - European shares retreated on Tuesday as disappointing earnings updates weighed on banks and pharma stocks, though a well-received outlook from Vodafone helped Britain’s FTSE 100 touch a record high.
Germany’s DAX also hit a fresh all-time peak before reversing course to trade 0.1 percent lower. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 percent.
The FTSE 100 index rose 0.5 percent, however, buoyed by a near 4 percent rise in Vodafone as investors overlooked its 6.1 billion euro ($6.7 bln) net loss for the year through March and focused instead on its forecast for earnings growth in the current year.
Analysts at Jefferies highlighted Vodafone’s strong cost reduction as supporting its confident dividend growth guidance.
Vodafone lifted Europe’s telecoms sector, which is up 4.8 percent so far this year but remains among the weakest sectoral performers, and has underperformed a 9.6 percent gain in the broader STOXX 600 index.
“At the moment it’s a moderate performance by the sector as a whole,” said Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, adding that weakness in BT has weighed on the sector.
“As we’ve seen with Vodafone, its margins are the best in Europe and organic service revenue growth in Europe is still in the single digit percentage points, so it’s highly competitive. That’s why you see (firms) like Vodafone looking overseas to Africa, India, where it’s faced its biggest troubles in the year,” Odeluga said.
Healthcare was the weakest European sector, dragged down by a 9.6 percent drop in BTG’s shares after the British healthcare firm published its full year figures, disappointing with a slower-than-expected growth forecast.
Likewise disappointing updates also hit shares in budget airline easyJet, lender CYBG and support services firm DCC.
As the first-quarter earnings season gathers pace the overall picture, however, is a bright one for Europe. Of the 76 percent of companies that have reported first-quarter updates, 66 percent have beaten analysts’ expectations, pointing to earnings growth of around 20 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
Swedish packing materials firm BillerudKorsnas saw its shares drop nearly 3 percent, touching their lowest level since July 2016, after warning of a significant financial impact in the second quarter following a breakdown of a pulp line at its Gruvon Mill.
Banking stocks were also weak, with UBS down more than 2 percent, extending losses from the previous session after Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Limited cut its stake in the Swiss bank at a loss.
Europe’s energy sector also provided support earlier in the session as the oil price rose on expectations of extended supply cuts, before easing to trade flat. ($1 = 0.9055 euros) (Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Susan Fenton)