* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, Euro STOXX 50 falls 0.4 pct
* Weak results hit Santander and Unilever
* ECB rate cut expectations still supporting equities
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - European shares paused on
Thursday after four straight sessions of gains, with
disappointing earnings reports from Santander and Unilever among
others helping peg back equity markets.
However, traders said that expectations of more central bank
action to support the euro zone economy would prevent any major
pull-back on European stock markets in the near term.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which had
risen for the last four sessions, eased back 0.1 percent to
1,190.33 points, while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50
index slipped 0.4 percent to 2,691.15 points.
The Euro STOXX 50's dip pushed it to only just above its
50-day and 100-day simple moving average levels which stand at
around 2,650 and 2,660 points respectively. Some technical
analysts said the dip could indicate the market's recent rally
was running out of steam.
"The jury is still out regarding whether the advance can
prove sustainable," said Tracy Knudsen, senior vice-president at
technical analysis firm Lowry Research.
Toby Campbell-Gray, head of trading at Tavira Securities,
saw European equity markets as trading sideways within a tight
50 or 100-point range in the near term, as expectations of new
stimulus from the European Central Bank, such as a rate cut next
week, would prevent any major sell-off.
"Plainly, the ECB is a help, but the market is not really
trending in one way or the other," said Campbell-Gray.
SANTANDER AND UNILEVER FALL
The STOXX Europe 600 Telecoms Index rose 0.4
percent, with UK telecoms group Vodafone advancing after
two people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Verizon
had hired advisers over a possible $100 billion
cash-and-stock bid to take full control of its Verizon Wireless
venture from partner Vodafone.
However, those gains were offset by declines in other
heavyweight stocks elsewhere after weak corporate results.
Spanish bank Santander was the worst-performing
FTSEurofirst 300 stock, falling 3.2 percent after reporting
first-quarter results below forecasts, while consumer products
group Unilever fell 1.9 percent after posting
weaker-than-forecast sales growth.
Campbell-Gray said he would favour pharmaceuticals and
healthcare stocks - often seen as "defensive" plays in times of
economic uncertainty due to solid sales and dividend payouts -
and telecoms stocks at present.
"We'd be looking to buy pharmaceuticals and healthcare
stocks, and selectively buy some telecoms," he added.