European Stocks Slip on Lackluster Earnings, Ukraine Violence

LO)NDON (The Deal) -- European stock indices headed lower on the final day of trading before the Easter break as violence in Ukraine conspired with a string of lackluster corporate bulletins to fuel nervousness. Asian markets were mixed.

The Ukraine government said it killed three pro-Russian fighters in the east of the country in a raid.

The country has been in turmoil since its pro-Russian government was ousted in an uprising in the capital Kiev, in the Western Europe-leaning west of the country; the east, which leans towards Russia, rebelled. The U.S. and the EU blame Russia for fomenting the unrest, while Russia denies this and calls the March uprising a coup.

In Germany, producer prices fell more than forecast in March year-on-year and unexpectedly tumbled month-on-month also, declining 0.3% and confirming a picture of extremely subdued price pressure in the eurozone.

In London, the FTSE 100 was down 0.19% at 6,571.64. In Frankfurt, the DAX fell 0.12% to 9,306.89, and in Paris, the CAC 40 fell 0.10% to 4,401.21.

Shares in leading European software maker SAP (SAP) fell in Frankfurt after the company's first-quarter revenue and operating profit rose less than analysts had predicted.

French spirits maker Remy Cointreau was down almost 5% by mid-morning in Paris after it posted an 11% decline in organic revenue in the fiscal year just ended, and said operating profit fell 35% to 40%, more than was expected.

Remy said a crackdown in China on spending on luxuries and dining by state entities had weighed on its business. Its report came on the same day as a third-quarter and nine-month sales update from spirits and beer maker Diageo (DEO). The London company said sales in the three months ended March were down 1.3%, and Asia Pacific sales tumbled 19%. As well as Chinese austerity measures weighing on sales of its Shuijingfang white spirit unit, Diageo cited political instability in Thailand for the Asia Pacific decline. Diageo shares were down 3.7% by mid-morning.

In Amsterdam, Dutch chemicals and coatings maker Akzo Nobel tumbled more than 6% after posting a 2% decline in first-quarter sales and little changed operating profit. However, the company's earnings per share matched expectations and said it was in line to achieve its targets in the current year.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed up 0.28% to22,670.24 and in Tokyo the Nikkei 225 was little changed at 14,417.53. A Japanese government gauge of consumer confidence fell to a near three-year low in March, apparently because of a rise in Japan's sales tax which kicked in in April.

The main markets in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, among others, are closed on Friday and Monday. The Tokyo market remains open.

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