* STOXX 600 -0.1 pct, Euro zone stocks -0.2 pct
* BPER leads Italian banks lower
* Earnings also weigh on construction stocks
* Ontex, Rubis jump after results
(Recasts, adds quotes and detail, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, May 10 European shares fell on
Wednesday, slipping from 21-month highs, with Italian banks and
construction stocks particularly weak.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1
percent, slipping from a high reached in the previous session
and the euro zone benchmark fell 0.2 percent as German
and French bluechip indexes eased from record highs.
Construction and materials stocks were the biggest
fallers, led by HeidelbergCement which reported its
first-quarter operating profit slipped 3 percent.
A fall in Italian banking stocks put pressure on the
European banking sector, which reversed earlier gains,
with BPER Banca down 4.5 percent after its
first-quarter net profit halved as a result of a writedown of
its stake in Italian bank rescue fund Atlante.
"The main share price driver for BPER remains excess capital
... and its use. Little has changed on this front with this set
of results as there was no news on strategy," analysts at UBS
said in a note.
Ubi Banca and Mediobanca fell between 1.9
percent and 1.2 percent respectively, while Italy's banking
index was down 0.6 percent.
Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, said that
following the outcome of the French presidential election, which
was won by centrist Emmanuel Macron, the European Central Bank
could feel less constrained to begin tapering its asset-buying
"If you bring that into the picture for the Italian banks,
it brings back onto the cards the whole problem about their
capitalisation," Odeluga said.
ING, however, bucked the trend with the Dutch bank
gaining 2.6 percent after its first-quarter underlying pretax
profit came in ahead of expectations.
Shares in Deutsche Bank spiked briefly with a
trader citing a Bloomberg report saying Qatar had asked German
regulators to allow it to lift its stake in the bank above 10
Insurance also rose, with AXA up 0.5
percent after the French insurer said that it planned to float
its U.S. businesses in 2018 to free up capital.
With the European earnings season more than half way
through, financials are among the strongest performers so far,
with almost 70 percent of those financial firms which have
reported beating expectations, according to Thomson Reuters
Overall, more than 71 percent of European firms have beaten
Shares in Belgian hygiene products maker Ontex
were the top STOXX risers, up 5 percent after the firm reported
higher revenue in all of its five divisions.
Well-received earnings boosted shares in French energy firm
Rubis, which jumped 5.8 percent to hit their highest
(Editing by Vikram Subhedar and Alexander Smith)