Capgemini leads equities as earnings beat expectations

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Capgemini was the market leader among European equities after shares in the Continent’s largest computer consultancy hit their highest levels since August 2008 on the back of expectation-beating earnings.

Its fourth-quarter figures also revealed accelerated growth, sending its shares up by 7.6 per cent to €42.89. Investors seized on a string of strong company results to drive some groups to fresh multiyear highs while selling off underperformers.

Solvay, the Belgian chemical company, rose to its highest since October 2008 after reporting growing demand and rising fourth-quarter operating profit. Its shares rose 4.8 per cent to €84.17.

In Zurich, Swiss Re climbed 3.9 per cent to SFr58.20 as it reported a 74 per cent jump in net income and announced some measures, such as repaying $1.1bn owed to Berkshire Hathaway, that showed the group’s rebound from the depth of the financial crisis.

The pan-European FTSE Eurofirst 300 index rose 0.1 per cent to 1,187.20 as those strong gains were matched by investors taking profit out of groups with results that were in line with, or below, expectations.

Strong macroeconomic data pointing to continued recovery had emboldened investors, pushing them back to stockpicking those groups with strong fundamentals, analysts said.

Amsterdam-listed Randstad, a staffing company, fell 5.2 per cent to €39.80 after it reported a rise in fourth-quarter operating profit that met expectations.

The stock had hit three-year highs recently as investors grew optimistic about the rising need for employment services as the economy recovers but companies delay hiring permanent staff.

Pernod, the French drinks maker, also slipped as the group announced half-year organic growth earnings before interest and taxes that missed expectations. The group fell 4.3 per cent to €67.61.

Also losing ground was EADS, which fell after Daimler, the German carmaker, offered to sell half its stake in the Franco-German aerospace group to the German government.

Paris-listed EADS fell 2.1 per cent to €21.77 while Daimler fell 1.1 per cent to €52.97, extending its losses from Wednesday, when it had reported disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and margins.

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