* FTSEurofirst 300 index falls 0.6 percent
* Pearson shares slump after EPS warning
* Credit Suisse falls on results, capital hike plans
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Wednesday, with British education publisher Pearson slumping after warning on its earnings and Swiss bank Credit Suisse dropping on its plans for capital hikes.
Pearson shares sank about 15 percent after the firm said it expected earnings to be at the bottom end of its range due to lower enrolments at some colleges in the United States and lower school text book purchases in parts of South Africa.
Credit Suisse fell 4.5 percent after announcing plans for capital hikes to raise about 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.28 billion). The bank, which also reported a 24 percent drop in third-quarter net profits, plans to reduce the number of its staff in Switzerland by a net 1,600 in three years and cut the number of its investment bank staff in London.
“The market is reacting to some poor earnings reports, with results from companies like Credit Suisse and Pearson weighing on sentiment,” Peter Dixon at Commerzbank said.
“Investors have been looking for a clearer direction for some time now, but the market remains vulnerable to bad news in the current environment.”
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 0.5 percent at 1,423.21 points by 0816 GMT after falling 0.5 percent in the previous session. Miners fell 1.5 percent, tracking a sharp drop in prices of industrial metals.
Swedish banks fell after missing third-quarter earnings expectations, with Nordea, Handelsbanken and SEB all down 2.3 to 4.9 percent. The banks saw operating earnings fall against a backdrop of negative interest rates and a slowdown in China that has roiled financial markets.
Analysts said the market was likely to be dictated by company results in the coming days as Europe’s quarterly earnings season gathers pace.
Only 6 percent of 284 companies in the STOXX Europe 600 index have reported quarterly results so far, of which 69 percent have met or beaten forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
In the United States, 13 percent companies in the S&P 500 index have announced results, with 74 percent firms meeting or beating expectations and the rest missing forecasts.
Across Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC fell 0.2 to 0.5 percent.
Portugal’s benchmark share index, down 1 percent, underperformed other major indexes due to political uncertainty.
Portugal’s caretaker centre-right prime minister and the head of the opposition Socialists made rival offers to form the next government, exacerbating the political stalemate following this month’s inconclusive election. That risks undermining a nascent economic recovery in a country which exited an international bailout only last year.
On the positive side, ARM Holdings surged 8 percent after the British chip designer, whose technology powers the iPhone, met expectations with a 27 percent rise in third-quarter profit.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Catherine Evans