Mixed earnings cap gains for European shares

* FTSEurofirst up 0.3 percent

* Lufthansa rallies on results

* BG, Barclays knocked by earnings

* Traders look to Wall Street reopening after storm closure

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - European stocks inched up on Wednesday, with mixed earnings reports keeping a lid on gains as traders looked to the reopening of the U.S. stock market following a two-day closure. The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 2.98 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,106.03 points, having gained ground on Tuesday as traders began squaring their accounts ahead of the month-end. Volumes stayed light on Wednesday, with near-term trading influenced by what U.S. investors do when their markets reopen after superstorm Sandy, which caused widespread damage on the country's eastern coast. U.S. futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street. There will also be focus on a conference call by euro zone finance ministers on Wednesday on seeking a way to give Greece more time to hit budget and debt targets. The FTSEurofirst index has been stuck in a 40-point range since central banks stepped in to bolster the global economy in early September, amid persistent doubts over the outlook for the global economy. ``QE (quantitative easing) was very important. It took away a lot of the systemic risk of the collapse of the financial system and what we have seen in equity markets is an adjustment of the equity-risk premium, which has nothing to with earnings or interest rates,'' a European-based strategist said. Earnings dominated many of Wednesday's market moves, driving strong gains in airline Lufthansa and sharp declines in energy firm BG. The German flag carrier rose 7.1 percent after its operating profit rose by 5.5 percent in the third quarter, far more than expected and helped by cost cuts. Heino Ruland of Ruland research said he would expect cost-cutting to remain a strong theme, particularly among airlines, as corporations try to maintain profit margins amid rising costs. Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum gained 3.6 percent after it raised its forecast for production and Norwegian food and industrial conglomerate Orkla rose 3.1 percent after it reported third-quarter earnings above forecasts.

RESULTS MIXED Some 56 percent of European companies have so far met or beaten earnings expectations in the current quarter, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data, and many analysts have nudged down their expectations for the fourth quarter. Fiat fell 5.6 percent after the Italian carmaker slashed its targets. Swedish Match extended the previous session's losses, falling 5 percent as banks began cutting ratings and forecasts on the tobacco products group after weak earnings. British oil and gas firm BG Group shed nearly 10 percent after it said it saw no production growth in 2013. UK bank Barclays, already rocked by an interest rate rigging scandal, fell 4.3 percent after it unveiled two new U.S. regulatory investigations into its financial probity and said third quarter profits fell by a fifth due to charges for the mis-selling of insurance. Despite a slightly more bullish quarter with 63 percent of banks meeting or beating expectations, the sector as a whole has so far seen earnings contract by around 21 percent as it deals with the fallout of the recent debt crisis. Away from results, luxury goods firm Christian Dior rose 2.3 percent with traders citing a report in the Daily Mail newspaper that its minorities are set to be bought out by parent LVMH.