LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - European shares opened slightly lower on Thursday, with investor attention dominated by a raft of mixed company earnings and economic data that appeared unlikely to dispel worries about the euro zone’s pace of recovery.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 slipped 0.2 percent in early trade to 1,372.80 points, with benchmark indexes in France, Germany and the UK down 0.3 to 0.6 percent.
An early batch of second-quarter company results pointed to a mixed performance for European firms: Shares of consumer goods group Unilever were down more than 1.7 percent after a smaller-than-expected rise in quarterly sales, while Germany’s BASF also fell on earnings disappointment.
However, telecoms gear maker Nokia surged 7.4 percent after the profit margins of its core networks came in better than expected, improving the full-year outlook for the firm.
Euro zone-wide PMI data was also due. Figures already out from France showed a fall in the manufacturing PMI to a seven-month low even as the services figure hit a three-month high, while the German services sector grew at the fastest rate in three years.
“The preliminary manufacturing and services PMI data for France was mixed this morning, which has pushed the equity markets lower,” said Naeem Aslam, analyst at AvaTrade.
Other regions were cheered by a surprisingly strong reading on Chinese manufacturing, bolstering hopes of recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy, and encouraging results from both Apple Inc and Facebook : Asian stocks were broadly higher and the S&P 500 added 0.2 percent.
Legal risks were on the horizon for some, with Swiss bank UBS saying it had been ordered by French officials to pay 1.1 billion euros in bail over allegations it laundered the proceeds of tax evasion and the head of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office saying Alstom was nearing criminal charges over a probe into alleged corruption.
UBS was down 0.7 percent, while Alstom was up 0.4 percent.
Geopolitical tensions were also in focus after a powerful Ukrainian rebel leader confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had an anti-aircraft missile of the type Washington says was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and it could have originated in Russia.
European Union ambassadors will debate proposals on Thursday on restricting Russian access to Europe’s capital markets and defence and energy technology, but are not expected to make a quick decision.
Gaza fighting also raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas had made some progress. (Editing by Hugh Lawson)