August 12, 2016 / 8:42 AM / in 2 years

European shares hover near 7-week highs, Maersk underpins

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* STOXX Europe 600 index trades flat

* Maersk surges after earnings update

* Miners track weaker metals prices

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - European shares steadied after setting a fresh seven-week high on Friday, with weaker miners offsetting gains in companies such as A.P. Moller-Maersk , which rose sharply following its earnings update.

Shares in Maersk surged 5 percent, the top gainer in the pan-European STOXX 600 index, after the Danish shipping and oil giant stuck to its 2016 forecast despite a sharp fall in quarterly net profit.

The second-quarter reporting season is entering into its final stages. So far, 88 percent companies in the STOXX 600 index have reported results, of which 61 percent have met or beaten earnings per share (EPS) forecasts. However, the second-quarter earnings are set to fall about 8 percent from last year.

Dennis Jose, European equity strategist at Barclays, said that the EPS beat was on the back of a cut in consensus estimates heading into the reporting season.

“Other than autos and software companies, few have seen material upgrades to EPS estimates. The now familiar pattern of companies beating lowered expectations, without a subsequent upgrade to EPS forecasts, has repeated itself,” he said.

The STOXX Europe 600 index was almost flat in percentage terms after hitting a seven-week high earlier in the session, recouping all of its post-Brexit losses. The index has risen about 1.6 percent so far this week and headed for its best weekly close since mid-July.

However, miners came under pressure as metals prices fell after data showing China’s fixed-asset investment growth eased to 8.1 percent year-on-year in the January-July period, missing market expectations. Industrial output growth rose 6.0 percent, but disappointed analysts who were expecting a higher reading.

The STOXX Europe Basic Resources index dropped 0.7 percent, the worst sectoral performer, hit by a 0.5 to 2.0 percent fall in shares of Rio Tinto, Anglo American and BHP Billiton.

Across Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.3 percent, dragged down by companies such as insurer Talanx. Its shares fell 4.4 percent, the top decliner in the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after reporting a weaker-than-expected second quarter net profit rise due to a hit from natural disasters and unfavourable currency swings.

The German stock market ignored data showing the country’s economic growth slowed less than expected in the second quarter as higher exports and strong state spending and private consumption compensated for weaker investment in construction and machinery. (Editing by Keith Weir)

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