- Company earnings push down stocks
- Germany expected to grow 0.2% in first quarter
- Italy's PM says country made 'disproportionate' contribution to EU budget
FTSE Mibtel 30: 1.06%
Ibex 35: -2.19%
Stoxx 600: -0.23%
The main European equity benchmarks registered falls Thursday on the back of disappointing earnings results from big hitters including AstraZeneca and Banco Santander.
Drug maker AstraZeneca sank around 4.5% after the company forecast a fall in profit and sales due to increased competition from generic medicines.
Spain's blue chip bank Banco Santander dropped 3.66% after reporting a 58.8% decline in earnings for 2012 as the financial institution struggles with the country's economic crisis.
On a more positive note, Europe's biggest lender Germany is expected to grow 0.2% in the first quarter of this year after contracting in the last quarter.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he "has no fear of a recession" in Germany, according to Handelsblatt. He said growth would primarily be driven by German domestic demand and expected investment to 'increase significantly'.
Also encouraging for Germany was a 6.8% fall in unemployment reported Thursday.
On the same day the country's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, discussed the European budget in a bilateral meeting of leaders including Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti. Merkel said she was positive a deal could be reached on the budget.
"I am very optimistic that on the question of the long-term EU budget, we will be successful, that we will get an agreement," Merkel said, standing alongside the Italian prime minister. "Italy and Germany are both net payers, we have common interests. But of course these talks won't be easy and we can expect Italy to push its interests."
Monti said Italy has made a disproportionate contribution to the budget in terms of the country's wealth. He said rebate mechanisms should be reviewed and reiterated the need focus on growth rather than austerity alone. "It's essential that the next long-term EU budget is devoted to boosting growth, jobs and social cohesion in Europe," Monti said.
Lonmin gains on sales
Lonmin soared 14% after the mining group posted a 17% increase in platinum sales in the first quarter.
Ericsson jumped 7.7% as the world's largest maker of wireless networks reported a 5% increase in revenue for the fourth quarter to 66.9bn kronor.
STMicroelectronics gained 4.37% as the chipmaker finalises plans to pull out of ST-Ericsson by the third quarter. Ericsson said the two companies may end their joint venture.
TeliaSonera AB slid 2% as the Swedish phone company said fourth-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and one-off items dropped 3.2% to 8.97bn kronor.
Deutsche Bank, Europe's biggest bank by assets, gained 3.64% despite announcing a fourth-quarter loss of €2.17bn.
The euro rose 0.11% to $1.3582.
Brent crude features were up 0.200 to the 115.130 dollar
mark on the ICE.