European shares flat as bank selloff hits sentiment
* FTSEurofirst 300 flat at 1,211.88 pts
* Barclays, Deutsche Bank fall after updates
* Upbeat comments from EDF, ITV, Weir help support index
LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - European shares were flat on Tuesday, as Barclays led a selloff in banks after announcing a 5.8 billion pound rights issue and disappointing earnings, offsetting upbeat statements from France's EDF among others. Shares in Barclays tumbled 7.2 percent in volume already 1-1/2 times their average for the past 90 days after the bank's half-year results lagged forecasts and on news of a larger-than-expected rights issue at a discount of 44 percent to Monday's closing share price. "Given the fairly major discount to the closing price they're clearly looking to tempt investors," Richard J Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said. "What it does require is more of a leap of faith in believing the management's statement of prospects." He noted the dilution effect for the bank's long-term shareholders is mitigated by a 90 percent rally in the share price in the past year. Before the rights issue was announced Barclays' shares were trading at 0.8 times the bank's book, a discount to its peer Lloyds at 1.1 times and Spain's BBVA at 0.9, StarMine data showed. Balance sheet concerns also hit Deutsche Bank, which fell 4.1 percent after it pledged to cut risky assets and its quarterly profit missed expectations due to higher litigation reserves. Oil major BP also missed its quarterly profit expectations, sending its shares down 5.1 percent.
They were among the top fallers on the European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which was flat at 1,205.99 points, off an early high of 1,211.88 points. The FTSEurofirst 300 had started the day on a more upbeat tone, boosted by positive guidance comments from a number of companies, including utility group EDF, Britain's free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV and engineer Weir Group , up between 3.8 percent and 6.9 percent. With just over a third of the European earnings season now behind us, 55 percent of companies that have reported so far have met or beaten analysts' forecasts, Thomson Reuters StarMine data showed. But the FTSEurofirst 300 struggled to hang onto early gains, extending a trend that has seen it closing well off its intra-day high in each of the past six sessions, a sign of fading investor confidence. "The market is attempting to rise but we're selling off every day," a London-based programme trader at a leading investment bank said. "There's a raft of negative news out, from the likes of BP and Barclays, so it's hard to see how it could be aggressively up." Traders said investors were awaiting clarity on the U.S. Federal Reserve's plan to dial back its equity-friendly stimulus programme when Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks late on Wednesday before committing more money to shares.