* FTSEurofirst 300 index up 0.12 percent
* Pearson shares slump after profit warning
* Credit Suisse slips on results, capital hike plans
* Technology sector is top gainer, led by ARM
By Danilo Masoni and Atul Prakash
MILAN/LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - European shares crept higher on Wednesday as confidence over a positive close to the year and continued central bank support ahead of an ECB meeting on Thursday helped investors to shrug off negative earnings news.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.12 percent after falling as much as 0.8 percent earlier in the session, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index gained 0.55 percent.
“With the European Central Bank meeting tomorrow, investors do not want to be overly short (negative),” said Markus Huber, trader at Peregrine & Black in London.
An Italian fund manager said that investors were absorbing negative earnings news well, suggesting confidence that the combination of low interest rates, accommodative monetary policies and a more stable China would help markets to end 2015 in the black.
One bright spot in the otherwise gloomy set of quarterly reports was ARM Holdings. Shares in the British chip designer, whose technology powers the iPhone, climbed 7 percent after posting a 27 percent rise in third-quarter profit and expressing confidence in its ability to continue to outperform rivals.
ARM pushed the technology index 1.8 percent higher, making it the highest-gaining sector in Europe. The auto and construction sectors were also up more than 1 percent.
Swedish banks fell after missing third-quarter earnings expectations, with SEB, Nordea and Handelsbanken down by between 4 percent and 6.6 percent. The banks’ operating earnings fell against a backdrop of negative interest rates and a slowdown in Chinese growth that has roiled financial markets.
Credit Suisse fell 2.7 percent after announcing plans for capital increases to raise about 6 billion Swiss francs. The bank, which also reported a 24 percent drop in third-quarter net profit, plans to reduce the number of its staff in Switzerland by a net 1,600 within three years and cut the number of its investment bank staff in London.
Pearson shares sank by 15.7 percent after the company said it expected earnings to be at the bottom end of its forecast range because of lower enrolments at some colleges in the United States and fewer school text book purchases in parts of South Africa.
Analysts said the market’s direction 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 of companies in the S&P 500 index have announced results, with 74 percent meeting or beating expectations and the rest missing forecasts.
Portugal’s benchmark share index, down 0.6 percent, underperformed other major indexes because of political uncertainty in the country.
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Dominic Evans and David Goodman)