European shares edge up as upbeat corporate news offsets weak economic data

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 10:00 hrs

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 percent

* International focus pays off in earnings

* French, German GDP weigh on sentiment

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - European shares nudged higher on Thursday, as a run of upbeat reports from companies exposed to international markets outweighed weak French and German gross domestic product readings.

Dutch staffing firm Randstad and Swiss engineering group ABB both beat earnings' forecasts, helped by growth in Asia and Latin America, while French car maker Renault pledged to increase full-year sales on the back of rising demand outside Europe.

To-date, 59 percent of STOXX Europe 600 companies that have already reported results have beaten full-year earnings expectations, compared to 71 percent of their U.S. peers, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.

"We all know growth will be pretty weak for the euro zone and it backs our view that we should see an outperformance of growth stocks against value stocks because growth stocks are more exposed to international growth," said Benoit Peloille, equity strategist at Natixis, recommending U.S.-exposed companies in particular.

The FTSEurofirst 300 was 0.1 percent higher at 1,167.41 points by 0946 GMT, after dipping into the red several times in volatile early trade as investors balanced the corporate numbers against the economic data.

The French and German economies both shrunk more than expected in the final quarter of 2012, with France hit by falling exports, data showed on Thursday, signalling a deeper recession for the euro zone as a whole.

"It is kind of disappointing that Germany, which had shown so much resilience is now showing signs of suffering from the debt crisis," said Anita Paluch, sales trader at Gekko Capital Markets.

The German DAX underperformed, down 0.1 percent, and the weak data also weighted on domestic-focused sectors, with retailers down 0.5 percent.

Nestle was the biggest weight on the FTSEurofirst 300, after the food giant warned of a challenging year ahead.

"For Nestle standards we would call this a miss," analysts at Liberum Capital said in a note.

Nestle shares were down 2.5 percent, taking 0.1 point off the FTSEurofirst 300.

The overall mood, though, remained relatively upbeat, with implied volatility on euro zone blue chips - a crude barometer of investor risk aversion - falling to a one-week low.

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