Eyes on European earnings, as Kering shares jump on sales surge

LONDON (Reuters) – Earnings were the main driver for European stocks on Wednesday, with luxury conglomerate Kering shining after sales at Gucci surged, as benchmarks were muted as investors readied for Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting.

The pan-European STOXX 600 <.STOXX> dipped 0.1 percent, while euro zone blue chips <.STOXX50E> gained 0.1 percent. France’s CAC 40 <.FCHI> rose 0.1 percent, outperforming peers thanks to strong gains from Kering.

Yet another forecast-beating quarter from Gucci, with organic sales growth of 49 percent, sent Kering’s shares up 5.7 percent, also boosting luxury peer LVMH <LVMH.PA>, up 0.8 percent, as analysts dissected the implications for the sector.

“A good quarter for the industry but still very polarized, with Gucci clearly leading the momentum at five times the sector growth,” said JP Morgan analysts in a note.

“Gucci remains the ‘it’ brand,” wrote Citi analysts.

Biotech firm Novozymes <NZYMb.CO> jumped to a two-year high, up 4.9 percent, after it raised its full-year outlook and reported sales and earnings that beat forecasts.

Earnings disappointments drove some sharp losses.

Overall results have been somewhat underwhelming so far, with Thomson Reuters data showing fewer companies so far beating analyst estimates than in the average quarter.

“More companies are beating in the U.S. and Japan compared to Europe,” JP Morgan equity strategist Emmanuel Cau wrote in a note, though the market response had been more positive so far this quarter than in other quarters of this year.

Deutsche Bank strategists said banks stood out as the main drivers of earnings growth so far.

Euro zone banks <.SX7E> were up 0.6 percent, building on the previous session’s gains as investors anticipated the ECB meeting as the next likely trigger for financials, which benefit from a rising interest rate environment.

Ballpoint pens and razor maker BIC <BICP.PA> sank 11.7 percent, hitting a four-year low after nine-month sales figures came in under consensus. The shares suffered sharp losses after a cut to sales expectations in late September.

Industrials firms Wartsila <WRT1V.HE> and Alfa Laval <ALFA.ST> fell 3 percent and 4.3 percent respectively after both missed earnings expectations, with Alfa Laval reporting lower order bookings and Wartsila pointing to a challenging marine market.

Weakness in the basic resources sector <.SXPP> reined the European index back. The sector index fell 1 percent as copper miner Antofagasta <ANTO.L> dropped after results.

Overall earnings for the STOXX 600 are set to grow 3.4 percent this quarter compared with the same period in 2016, Thomson Reuters data showed,. That figure falls to flat earnings growth when energy stocks are stripped out.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and John Stonestreet)

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