* France's CAC down 0.4 pct, lags Europe
* Software AG top gainer after results
* European earnings kick off in earnest next week (Adds details, updates prices)
By Kit Rees
LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) - French blue-chip stocks underperformed other European benchmark indexes on Friday as investors retreated from risky bets ahead of the too-close-to-call first round of France's presidential election. CAC .FCHI fell 0.4 percent, while the pan-European STOXX .STOXX index added 0.1 percent. On the week they were down slightly but both indexes are less than 2 percent below their highest level this year hit last week.
"So far markets have been pretty sanguine in the face of the (French) presidential election, which was flagged as one of the potential banana skins for markets in this year," Hargreaves Lansdown (LON: HRGV ) senior analyst, Laith Khalaf, said.
"There may be a bit of political weariness among investors, but also they may just be thinking that, actually, they're not going to place market bets based on political events, and that would be an entirely sensible strategy," he said.
Among French standout movers, Danone DANO.PA was the biggest faller on the CAC 40, down 2.5 percent after reporting first-quarter sales figures. banks Societe Generale SOGN.PA and BNP Paribas BNPP.PA extended the previous session's gains, rising 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.
Banking stocks .SX7P , which are seen as benefiting from the victory of a mainstream candidate in the French vote, were the biggest sectoral gainers in Europe, up 0.7 percent, while basic resources stocks .SXPP ended flat after gaining initially on the back of slight gains in copper prices.
Earnings and deal-making drove stock price moves elsewhere, including a jump of 7.9 percent for Software AG SOWG.DE , making the shares the STOXX 600's top gainer, after reporting first-quarter results. Software's quarterly core profit declined less than expected. sector peer ASM International ASMI.AS rose 3.7 percent after Natixis raised its target price.
European first quarter earnings are expected to increase 7.2 percent from the first quarter of 2016, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data. Excluding the energy sector, this would be a rise of 2.9 percent.
Engineering firm WS Atkins ATKW.L gained 6.1 percent after Canada's SNC-Lavalin Group SNC.TO said it would buy the firm for C$3.6 billion, firming up this month's indicative offer. other standouts, Orkla ORK.OL fell 3.2 percent after going ex-dividend, while a downgrade from Panmure weighed on SSP Group's shares SSPG.L .
Oil stocks .SXEP were a drag, falling 0.8 percent as crude prices retreated. O/L
Add Chart to Comment
We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:
- Enrich the conversation
- Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
- Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
- Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
- NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
- Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
- Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
- Only English comments will be allowed.
Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.