European Stocks Steady as Nestle Shines in Mixed Bag of Earnings

By Reuters
October 20, 2021 Updated: October 20, 2021

European shares were flat on Wednesday as strong results from Nestle boosted food company stocks and made up for disappointing earnings from a clutch of firms, including French luxury group Kering and Dutch semiconductor company ASML.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index inched up 0.1 percent, reversing slight opening losses after Asian peers tracked a strong finish on Wall Street.

As the third-quarter earnings season unfolds, investors are fretting about the impact of higher costs, stemming from supply-chain problems and labour shortfalls, especially when central banks across the globe are planning to withdraw their stimulus measures.

“The bar (for earnings) that was set early this year is too high. It’s going to be hard to beat that,” said Anna Stupnytska, global macro economist at Fidelity International.

“At the same time, bond yields are continuing to move higher, and that signals the markets are pricing in less support from central banks overall.”

Euro zone government bond yields inched higher as recent comments by European Central Bank (ECB) officials failed to soothe fears of a potential monetary tightening.

Among the biggest drags on STOXX 600 was Kering, which tumbled 4.3 percent as sales growth at its star fashion brand Gucci missed analysts’ expectations due to a sharp slowdown in its pace of recovery, particularly in Asia.

ASML Holdings, a key supplier to computer chip makers, fell 1.3 percent after its fourth-quarter sales forecast fell short of some analysts’ estimates.

Dutch paints and coatings maker Akzo Nobel slipped 2.1 percent as its quarterly earnings were hit by continued raw material inflation and supply chain disruptions, which it expects to continue through mid-2022.

In a bright spot, Swiss food giant Nestle gained 3.5 percent on an upbeat sales outlook after strong coffee sales and price hikes pushed organic sales 6.5 percent higher in the third quarter.

Europe’s food and beverage index rose 1.6 percent, with Anglo-Dutch rival Unilever, which is due to give a trading update on Thursday, up 0.9 percent.

Europe Inc. earnings are expected to have risen 47.6 percent to 96.1 billion euros ($112 billion) in the third quarter, latest data from Refinitiv I/B/E/S showed, only a slight improvement from last week’s 46.7 percent growth forecast.

By Anisha Sircar