Europe Markets

Europe Shares Close Lower as Earnings Weigh

A leading pan-European stock index fell on Thursday, hit by drops in brewing group AB Inbev and oil major Shell, and some expected further weakness in the near term.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed down 0.2 percent at 1,168.35 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip fell 0.8 percent to 2,710.04 points.

AB Inbev slumped 7.6 percent to take the most points off the broader index after the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit seeking to stop it from a full takeover of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo.

Royal Dutch Shell also retreated by roughly 3 percent after its fourth-quarter results significantly undershot expectations.

Rupert Baker, who handles European equity sales at Mirabaud Securities, said there could be a near-term pull back on European equity markets but he expected an eventual recovery.

"The market has had a strong run and it's now topping out a bit. But there is still a bullish underbelly which has not been derailed yet," he said.

European markets

Drug maker AstraZeneca warned of a tough year ahead in its earnings release on Thursday, while the world's largest spirits-maker, Diageo, released first-half results that showed European sales, especially in the south, remain lackluster.

Germany's Deutsche Bank released full-year earnings posting a big loss following writedowns. But shares were 2.5 percent higher after the lender reported better than expected capital ratios.

Net profits fell below expectations at Santander after the bank released full-year earnings. Th ratio for bad loans rose at the bank as real estate writedown also weighed down results; shares were down 2.47 percent.

Europe Shares Close Lower as Earnings Weigh
Europe Shares Close Lower as Earnings Weigh

However, Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson's fourth-quarter earnings included a writedown on its ST-Ericsson unit, but shares shrugged off the news and were higher by 9.59 percent. It was the biggest gainer on the Euro Stoxx 600 Index on Thursday.

Miner Lonmin reported first-quarter production figures that showed output for the quarter was ahead of its own expectations; shares climbed 9.75 percent.

Disagreements are growing over euro zone plans to force banks to ring-fence high-risk trading. According to plans drawn up by Germany's finance ministry, banks will have to separate only some proprietary trading, less than what was proposed by Erkki Liikanen, the European Central Bank member who submitted a report last year on structural reforms of banks.

Elsewhere, EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss the . Israeli jets reportedly bombed a convoy in Syria. Israel has not commented on the reports.

In economic data, German retail sales fell 1.7 percent in December from the month before. Year-on-year they declined 4.7 percent, making it the biggest drop for over three years. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the country fell to 6.8 percent for January from 6.9 in December.