(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 falls back from three-month highs
* Ericsson, Pernod top FTSEurofirst losers after results
* VW surges on signs of deal with U.S. authorities
* Banks outperform ahead of ECB meeting
By Danilo Masoni and Sudip Kar-Gupta
MILAN/LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) - European stocks fell slightly on Thursday, with Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson and French drinks firm Pernod leading the fall after disappointing updates.
Some investors said there was some profit taking before a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting later in the day which was widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged.
“The ECB meeting should not deliver any interesting news but could disclose some details about its corporate bond buying programme,” said Enrico Vaccari, fund manager at Italy’s Consultinvest.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.6 percent by 1050 GMT, after hitting three-month highs earlier in the week, helped by a rally in oil prices.
In spite of Thursday’s decline, Vaccari said he expected the recent positive trend to continue amid signs of an improving macro picture.
Shares in Ericsson slumped 9 percent after it posted first-quarter sales and operating profit lower than markets expected.
Pernod Ricard fell 6.9 percent after third-quarter sales came in below expectations as whisky sales in China continued to suffer.
Shares in Volkswagen rose 5 percent after sources told Reuters that VW and U.S. officials had reached a framework deal for the automaker to buy back almost 500,000 diesel cars containing software that enabled them to evade U.S. emission rules.
While no ECB policy action was expected on Thursday, President Mario Draghi was likely to reinforce his support for its ultra-loose monetary policy measures.
Expectations for a dovish rhetoric and supportive details about the ECB’s new round of cheap bank funding helped Europe’s bank sector index outperform. The sector was last up 1.3 percent.
Today’s European research round-up
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Editing by Larry King)