(ADVISORY - Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon - see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development. See the bottom of the report for more details) Adds details, updates prices)
* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.4 percent
* Bayer, BASF slip on reported interest for Monsanto
* Aegon, Generali slump as profits disappoint
* But KBC, Zurich rise after well-received results
By Danilo Masoni
MILAN, May 12 (Reuters) - European stocks inched lower in choppy trade on Thursday, weighed down by some disappointing earning updates, while Bayer and BASF dropped on reports they could be interested in buying Monsanto.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.4 percent by 1451 GMT, having risen by as much as 0.9 percent earlier in the session on the back of gains in crude oil prices, which later turned lower.
Bayer fell 5 percent after Bloomberg reported the German group was exploring a bid for Monsanto, while BASF fell 2.3 percent after financial news website Street Insider reported it was also looking at a Monsanto acquisition.
Aegon was the worst-performing stock in the region. The Dutch insurer slumped 11.5 percent after reporting worse-than-expected first-quarter underlying pretax profit of 462 million euros.
Credit Agricole fell 5 percent after the French bank reported a 71-percent fall in quarterly net income, while Italian insurer Generali slipped 4.2 percent after weak interest rates and fewer capital gains sent its net profit down 12 percent to 1.163 billion euros, missing expectations .
But KBC rose 5.8 percent after the Belgian financial group posted better-than-expected net profit, as increasing customer deposits, loans and higher insurance income made up for some of the group’s increased tax bill.
Zurich Insurance rose more than 6 percent after swinging back to profit that beat analysts’ expectations.
Anthilia Capital Partners’ Chief Investment Officer, Andrea Cuturi, said there was no particular catalyst driving the market, adding that the earnings season in Europe had been disappointing even though that might have already been priced in.
According to data from Thomson Reuters StarMine, 61 percent of the companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX have beaten or met market forecasts with their first quarter earnings, although many have done so by cutting costs in order to offset lower revenues.
German utility RWE rose 7 percent after its first-quarter operating profit rose more than expected, helped by an unusually high earnings contribution from its trading and gas midstream division.
($1 = 0.8763 euros)
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in London; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)