* Euro STOXX 50 up 0.5 pct, FTSEurofirst 300 flat
* Pearson shares slump after profit warning
* Credit Suisse slips on results, capital hike plans
* Technology sector is top gainer, led by ARM
By Danilo Masoni and Atul Prakash
MILAN/LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - European shares crept higher on Wednesday as expectations of a positive close to the year and continued central bank support before an ECB meeting on Thursday helped investors to shrug off bad earnings news.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index gained 0.5 percent. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed almost flat after falling as much as 0.8 percent earlier in the session.
“With the European Central Bank meeting tomorrow, investors do not want to be overly short (negative),” said Markus Huber, trader at Peregrine & Black in London.
An Italian fund manager said investors were absorbing disappointing earnings well, suggesting confidence the combination of accommodative monetary policies and a more stable China would help markets to end 2015 in the black.
One bright spot in an otherwise gloomy set of quarterly reports was ARM Holdings. Shares in the British chip designer, whose technology powers the iPhone, climbed 6.5 percent after it posted a 27 percent rise in third-quarter profit.
ARM pushed the technology index 1.8 percent higher, making it the highest-gaining sector in Europe. Autos and construction were also up more than 1 percent.
Swedish banks fell after missing third-quarter earnings expectations, with SEB, Nordea and Handelsbanken down by 4.3 to 7 percent. Operating earnings fell against a backdrop of negative interest rates and a slowdown in Chinese growth that has roiled financial markets.
Credit Suisse fell 3.6 percent after announcing plans for capital increases to raise about 6 billion Swiss francs and reporting a 24 percent drop in third-quarter net profit. It plans to cut a net 1,600 staff in Switzerland within three years and reduce investment bank staff in London.
Pearson shares sank by 15.9 percent after the company said it expected earnings to be at the bottom end of its forecast range because of lower enrolments at some colleges in the United States and fewer school textbook purchases in parts of South Africa.
Syngenta rose 6.3 percent when it said CEO Mike Mack was stepping down, just two months after the Swiss agrochemicals group spurned a $47 billion takeover approach from U.S. rival Monsanto.
Analysts said the market’s direction was likely to be dictated by company results in the coming days as Europe’s quarterly earnings season gathers pace.
Only 6 percent of 284 companies in the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported quarterly results so far. Of those, 69 percent have met or beaten forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
In the United States, 13 percent of companies in the S&P 500 index have announced results, with 74 percent meeting or beating expectations and the rest missing forecasts.
Portugal’s benchmark share index, down 1.2 percent, underperformed other major indexes amid prospects of a left leaning coalition government that investors worry might ease back on austerity measures.
Today’s European research round-up (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, editing by Larry King)