February 28, 2017 / 10:46 AM / a year ago

Earnings underpin European equities, STOXX set for monthly gain

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* STOXX Europe 600 index trades flat

* Index heads for positive monthly close

* Meggitt, GKN up after results

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - European equities steadied on Tuesday, with a rally in shares of companies such as GKN and Meggitt following their encouraging results offset by weaker miners.

The STOXX Europe 600 was flat in percentage terms by 1028 GMT. However, the pan-European index, up 2.7 percent so far in February, was heading for progress over the month after slipping in January.

“European markets are trading little changed ... traders in Europe seem to be needing persuading to increase their risk exposure in form of more positive economic data or less uncertainty going forward,” said Markus Huber, trader at City of London Markets.

“Overall sentiment is neutral to positive, however with today being the last trading day of the month it wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if we see the occasional round of profit-taking.”

Miners lost ground after prices of major industrial and precious metals such as copper, aluminium and gold fell. The European basic resources index was down nearly 1 percent, the biggest sectoral decliner.

BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Randgold Resources fell 0.7 to 2.6 percent.

Precious metal miner Fresnillo fell 1.5 percent, tracking the broader sector weakness, despite reporting a more than six-fold jump in its profit for the year on higher output and metal prices and a weak Mexican peso. Some investors also took profits after recent gains in its shares.

However, losses seen by the basic resources sector were negated by some positive company updates.

Shares in Meggitt surged 11.5 percent, making them the top gainers in the STOXX 600, after the British car and aeroplane parts maker posted a 13-percent rise in adjusted profits and raised its dividend payout.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said that investors were reacting to Meggitt’s positive outlook for 2017 on expectations that the company would be a beneficiary of increased U.S. military spending.

British engineering group GKN was up 6.6 percent after the company reported a 12-percent rise in adjusted pretax profit, beating market expectations, and said it would grow faster than both its main aerospace and autos markets in 2017.

Ferrovial rose 4.8 percent after announcing results and saying that its order book last year was higher than in 2015.

Elsewhere, price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com and Dutch industrial services company Aalberts Industries fell 5.2 percent and 5 percent respectively as their results were not well received by investors.

UK mid-cap company Go-Ahead Group plunged 13 percent after the British transport group said full year profits would be lower than it previously expected due in part to repeated strike action on the Southern rail business.

Across Europe, both Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC were trading flat. (Editing by Keith Weir)

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