* FTSEurofirst flat despite energy shares falling
* Telecom Italia says America Movil may join Brazil unit bid
* ABB gains on $4 billion buy-back news
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - European equities steadied after choppy early trading on Tuesday as gains for shares in companies including Telecom Italia and ABB were offset by weaker energy shares following a sharp decline in crude oil prices.
Telecom Italia rose 2.9 percent after America Movil said it would hold talks with Brazil’s Oi SA over joining its bid to buy Telecom Italia’s Brazil unit, while ABB rose 1.5 percent after saying it will buy back $4 billion of shares.
However, gains were eclipsed by energy stocks dropping alongside oil prices. Brent crude eased for a fourth straight session, with prices holding near a 16-month trough below $100 a barrel, amid concerns of ample global supply and slower-than-expected growth in the world’s top oil consumers.
“Pressure on oil prices is getting reflected in energy shares and the trend could continue in the near term,” Christian Stocker, equity strategist at UniCredit in Munich, said.
“However, positive corporate news from time to time will continue to underpin the broader European stock market.”
The STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index fell 0.5 percent, the top sectoral decliner, while Statoil and Royal Dutch Shell both fell about 1.2 percent.
Adding to market caution was research from the San Francisco Fed saying investors expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower for longer, and to raise them more slowly, than U.S monetary policymakers themselves expect, analysts said.
“The report highlights that low volatilities across financial markets may signal that investors are underestimating how quickly the Fed will raise interest rates,” Stocker said.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.04 percent at 1,389.90 points by 0826 GMT. France’s CAC index was down 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX was flat and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent.
London-listed stocks were in focus due to rising political uncertainty in the country. A TNS poll showed on Tuesday the rival campaigns in Scotland’s fight over independence were running neck-and-neck nine days before a referendum.
Citi said in a note a “Yes” vote would present several headwinds and the country’s growth prospects could be hit but weaker sterling could provide some support to equities as UK-listed companies derive significant revenues from overseas.
On the downside, L‘Oreal fell 2.2 percent after the group’s Chief Executive Jean-Paul Agon cut his forecast for full-year growth in the global cosmetics market to between 3 percent and 3.5 percent.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Louise Ireland)