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.

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