European Stocks Remain Flat But Shell Rises On Better Than Expected Results

London, April 29 | Updated: Apr 30 2004, 05:30am hrs
European stocks opened flat on Thursday as results and trading updates poured in from around the region, including solid earnings from oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell.

Shell, which has been rocked by a scandal over its reserves accounting, posted a forecast-topping adjusted net profit of $4.25 billion for the first quarter and announced plans to immediately start buying $2 billion worth of its own shares.

Shell stock rose 3.7 per cent. On the downside, HVB, Germanys second-largest bank, tumbled 6.8 per cent after its first-quarter results fell short of market expectations, while engineering group ABB fell 2.3 per cent after following its earnings report.

By 0705 GMT, the FTSE Eurotop 300 index of pan-European bluechips was 0.2 per cent weaker at 1,008.9 points while the narrower DJ Euro Stoxx 50 index fell 0.3 per cent to 2,828.4 points.

BASF led chemical stocks higher, gaining 1.1 per cent after its first-quarter core profits topped forecasts.

The results show an incredible rebound in the chemicals division, however we still need to look at the quality of the bounce, one trader said.

Sector peer Bayer surprised markets late on Wednesday, saying its first-quarter core earnings were expected to be 25-30 per cent higher than the analyst estimates it had collected. Bayer shares rose 1.5 per cent.

The sector has out-performed this week after strong results from Syngenta and DSM.

Results from drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Astra Zeneca will be in the spotlight later in the day. Astra Zeneca reports at 0900 GMT, followed by GSK at 1100 GMT.

In New York on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed 1.3 per cent weaker at 10,342.6 points, and the tech-laden Nasdaq Composite ended down 2.1 per cent at 1,989.5 points.

Asian stocks fell on Thursday on fears that China will act aggressively to slow its economy, while the dollar rose ahead of first-quarter GDP data, due at 1230 GMT.