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* STOXX 600 steady, still down 8 pct in 2016
* HSBC rises on stock buyback plans
* ING shares jump as Q2 results beat forecasts
* But auto stocks fall as VW shares retreat
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - European stocks were steady on Wednesday as a rebound in the shares of the region’s struggling banks, such as HSBC and ING, offset weaker auto stocks.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which had fallen in the last two sessions, was up 0.1 percent. The index, which slumped in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s vote in June to quit the European Union, is down 8 percent so far in 2016.
“Earnings have not been too bad, but I remain bearish on the markets. A lot of companies in Europe are beating estimates, but if you look at the results, most of the companies are not actually growing their sales or profits,” said Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities.
Volkswagen shares fell 1.5 percent after the company warned of a hit to its sales in China next year, while tyre maker Continental fell after its results came in below some market forecasts.
The STOXX Europe 600 Autos index fell 1.1 percent, the weakest sector in Europe.
Swiss money manager GAM also slid 14.7 percent after posting lower profits, but other financial stocks fared better, with the STOXX Europe 600 banks index rising 1.7 percent.
The banking index has fallen around 30 percent so far in 2016, hit by concerns over bad debts and weak balance sheets.
However, the sector put in a rare day of outperformance on Wednesday, helped by strong gains for HSBC, ING and SocGen .
HSBC rose 3.6 percent as its plans to buy back up to $2.5 billion worth of its shares eased investors’ concerns as the bank reported a drop in profits.
ING jumped 7 percent after its Q2 profits beat forecasts while SocGen shares also climbed 4.4 percent after the French bank reported higher net profits.
Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Geneva-based fund management and consultancy firm Prime Partners, said that even though some banking stocks were rebounding, the overall earnings trend in Europe remained negative.
According to data from Thomson Reuters StarMine, second quarter earnings on the STOXX 600 index are down 18 percent from a year ago - whereas on the U.S. S&P 500 index earnings have fallen by a more modest 1.8 percent.
“European results look quite poor compared to the U.S, which is why a lot of investors are still taking their cash out of Europe,” said Savary. (Editing by Hugh Lawson)