European markets edge higher; earnings in focus; AstraZeneca down 14%

The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged 0.15 percent higher during early morning deals with major bourses pointing in opposite directions.

Food and beverages stocks were among the top performers on Thursday as investors digested strong earnings news. Britain’s Diageo posted higher full-year sales and profits on Thursday, saying productivity initiatives beat expectations. Its shares surged towards the top of the benchmark, up by more than 5 percent.

Germany’s flagship lender Deutsche Bank reported a surprise surge in profits for the second quarter of 2017, beating market estimates and doubling its pre-tax profit figure from last year. However, CEO Jon Cryan said revenues were “not as universally strong as we would have liked.” Its shares slipped 3 percent on the news.

Europe’s largest oil firm Royal Dutch Shell surpassed analyst expectations, reporting revenue of $72.13 billion in the second quarter of 2017. The oil and gas giant said it had been supported by its refining and chemicals business. Its shares were slightly higher in early morning deals.

Health-care stocks were down almost 1 percent on Thursday amid reports of a major drugs setback for AstraZeneca. The British pharmaceutical company said a combination of two of its new oncology drugs failed to shrink lung cancer tumors in a clinical trial. The news cast doubt among investors that the firm would be able to achieve its ambitious growth plans. Its shares tumbled more than 14 percent.

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