European stocks slip on US default jitters, BP results

European equities fell on Tuesday in cautious trading amid a flurry of company results, with investors focused on a struggle in Washington over averting a US default.

Stock market investors shunned equities as they sought to lessen their risk exposure amid lingering concern over the growing US debt situation, dealers said.

London's FTSE 100 index of top shares dropped 0.17 percent to 5,915.08 points in midday deals, as official data showed the British economy grew by just 0.2 percent in the second quarter of 2011, in line with expectations.

Frankfurt's DAX 30 declined 0.23 percent to 7,327.33 points and in Paris the CAC 40 index shed 0.82 percent to 3,781.60 points and the Stoxx 50 index of leading eurozone companies lost 0.44 percent to 2,730.47.

"It was a vaguely encouraging start to the day's trade as a flurry of earnings news in London helped lift the FTSE 100 higher, but these gains have been difficult to sustain," said IG Index sales trader Ben Critchley.

"With many traders focusing on the next steps out of Washington, the driver is to assume a risk-off position until there's more clarity on the debt ceiling situation.

"The assumption may well be that a deal simply has to be reached given the economic consequences, but there's a lot at stake in political terms too," he added.

President Barack Obama warned of a "deep economic crisis" if Washington fails to raise its debt limit, and urged Americans to demand that Republicans compromise to avoid a default.

Speaking in a televised addresss only eight days before the United States begins to run out of money to pay its bills, Obama called the weeks-long debt talks stalemate "a dangerous game" that the country "cannot afford to play."

Obama cast the blame for the stalemate on Republicans' refusal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling unless there is agreement to make deep spending cuts without increases in taxes on the wealthy.

If Congress fails to raise the ceiling by August 2, the resulting economic disaster could include higher interest rates for the US government as well as for consumers.

In London, the top faller was British energy giant BP. The group's shares fell 2.45 percent to 463.75 pence, as second-quarter results dashed analysts' expectations.

BP announced that it had rebounded into net profit in the second quarter of 2011, aided by high oil prices, after a huge loss last year after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

Adjusted net profit -- which strips out fluctuations in the value of energy inventories -- hit $5.3 billion in the second quarter of 2011 after a huge loss of $16.97 billion last time around.

But the reading fell short of market expectations for adjusted profit of about $6 billion.

"Heavyweight BP missing its profit targets is without doubt taking a toll," added Critchley.

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AFP

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