By Helen Reid
Image Attribute: STOXX Logo / Wikimedia Commons
LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - European shares edged back on Thursday after a strong rally in the previous session, though there were strong gains from Britain's Melrose and Norway's Subsea after well-received results.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1 percent. Utilities stocks were the top gainers while real estate stocks were the biggest losers.
The European earnings season was moving into its latter stages with figures having impressed so far.
"With 75 percent of companies having reported, STOXX 600 Q4 earnings per share are up 12.1 percent year on year, the strongest number since Q4 2013," Deutsche Bank analysts said.
British mid-cap engineering turnaround specialist Melrose Industries was the top gainer and hit a record high, last up 13.5 percent, after its full-year revenue more than tripled, helped by its acquisition of U.S. ventilation maker Nortek Industries.
Subsea 7, the Norwegian oil services company, was up 11.5 percent after it posted a fourth-quarter earnings beat and said it would pay a special dividend.
The firm had been a short selling target, with 8.8 percent of it shares outstanding on loan according to IHS Markit, though this number diminished 10 percent in the past month.
Engie, the French gas and power company, was the top CAC 40 gainer, up 6.2 percent and headed for its best day in nearly 5 1/2 years after it posted 2016 earnings in line with analysts' expectations.
Engie, which is 28.7 percent government-owned, said it could achieve 85 percent of its planned asset sales by the end of 2017, and announced the acquisition of British company Keepmoat Regeneration.
Successful drug trials helped shares of Swiss pharmaceuticals company Roche to gain 5.2 percent, on track for its best daily gains in eight years. Its Perjeta and Herceptin drugs reduced the recurrence of aggressive breast cancer, its key Aphinity study found.
French advertiser JC Decaux was a top gainer, up 4.2 percent after its results came in ahead of analysts' consensus. Its shares hit their highest level since early June 2016.
British outsourcing firm Capita sank to the bottom of the STOXX, down 7.3 percent after posting disappointing results and announcing its CEO's departure.
British housebuilder Travis Perkins was a top European faller after it posted a decline in profit due to weak performance in its plumbing and heating business.
Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, in focus due to its mega-merger with French lens maker Essilor, was down 3.2 percent, the FTSE MIB top faller after it posted a slight drop in profit for 2016 after market close on Wednesday.
"We think this is good enough in this phase, as focus is on the planned merger with Essilor," Deutsche Bank analysts said, adding retail profit evolution and Ray-Ban overall performance would be their areas of focus in the call with investors.
The world's largest provider of temporary staff Adecco was among top fallers, down 3.9 percent despite reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)
(c) 2017 Thomson Reuters