(Updates prices at settle)
* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, hovers below seven-year high
* Weir falls 8.7 pct after revenue warning
* AXA up 2.6 pct after says confident on cost-cutting target
By Blaise Robinson and Francesco Canepa
PARIS\LONDON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - European shares edged lower on Wednesday as mixed corporate results halted a rally that had propelled both Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to record highs.
Shares in British engineer Weir Group featured among the top losers, down 8.7 percent, after it warned falling oil prices would lead to a significant reduction in its 2015 revenue in 2015.
French steel pipe maker Vallourec sank 6.7 percent after saying it plans to cut 1,400 jobs in 2015, following a drop in demand from oil company customers.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed 0.1 percent lower at 1,541.80 points, retreating from a seven-year high reached on Tuesday.
European equities markets remained optimistic, though. Investors expect a boost from the European Central Bank’s asset-buying programme, known as quantitative easing, which is due to start next month.
“With the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing coming soon, European indexes should continue to rally for a while,” said Mirabaud Securities senior equity sales trader John Plassard in Geneva.
Some of the recent outperformers on the QE trade, such as European auto makers and Italian banks were hit by profit-taking on Wednesday after rallying around 30 percent since early January.
Europe’s second-biggest insurer, AXA, rose 2.6 percent after posting a 12 percent increase in 2014 net profit and voicing confidence in its cost-cutting target for this year.
“Strong results from AXA showing the benefits of the ongoing shift in focus away from traditional life products,” analysts at RBC wrote in a note.
Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk gained 9.5 percent after the group said it would sell its 20 percent stake in Danske Bank, with the anticipated proceeds of about $5.5 billion going to shareholders.
France’s Safran gained 3.5 percent after the group predicted profit growth this year as it posted stronger-than-expected 2014 earnings, led by sales of spare engine parts and record production rates.
So far in the earnings season, 63 percent of STOXX 600 companies have reported results, of which 55 percent have met or beaten profit forecasts. Overall, fourth-quarter earnings are expected to grow by 19.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which would be Europe’s best season in 3-1/2 years.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Larry King)