MILAN (Reuters) - European shares inched lower on Friday as investors focused on a raft of mixed company results with insurance firm Swiss Re (>> Swiss Re) hit after missing profit estimates.
The regional STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> fell 0.1 percent, on track to end the week flat after two straight week of losses, while euro zone blue chips <.STOXX50E> fell 0.2 percent.
Swiss Re was the biggest drag to the STOXX, down 4.2 percent, after the world's second-largest reinsurer reported a bigger than expected 35 percent drop in first-half net profit fell as claims from natural disasters weighed.
Baader Helvea analyst Daniel Bischof said the results were weak with all its units apart from Life & Health clearly missing estimates and Property and Casualty showing a worrying dynamic.
"There are still no signs of a broader-based stabilization," said Bischof, adding however that after its underperformance relative to the sector, the stock look increasingly appealing.
The analyst has a hold rating on the stock.
Later in the day investors will be looking at jobs data in the U.S. for more clues on the strength of the world's largest economy and the trajectory of its monetary policy.
"With the Fed expected to raise rates only one more time this year and inflation having moderated a bit of late, this set of job data might not necessarily impact the timing of the next rate hike," said City of London Markets trader Markus Huber.
"Instead traders will be looking for confirmation that the US economy is continuing to power ahead," he added.
Non-farm payrolls were expected to have increased by 183,000 jobs last month after surging by 222,000 in June, a Reuters survey of economists found. Traders said stronger than expected data could support equity markets.
Back to earnings, top STOXX faller was Andritz (>> Andritz AG), down 8.4 percent, after revenues at the Austrian engineering group fell more than expected in the second-quarter, prompting the company to lower its outlook for 2017.
British investment service company Hargreaves (>> Hargreaves Lansdown) was also a top loser, down 4.9 percent, as the lack of a special dividend disappointed.
Royal Bank of Scotland (>> Royal Bank of Scotland Group), which has not made an annual profit since 2007, rose 4 percent after the British bank swung to a first-half profit, topping estimates, as its recovery continued.
Nearly two thirds of the companies listed on the MSCI Europe index have already released results. Of them, 61 percent have either beaten of matched expectations with second-quarter earnings growth expected at more than 22 percent.
British homebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey (>> Taylor Wimpey) and Persimmon (>> Persimmon) fell sharply. Traders cited media speculation that the government could review the "help to buy" scheme to support home ownership among first-time buyers.
(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)
By Danilo Masoni