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Europe lower for first time in three sessions

By Sarah Turner European shares pulled back from 18-month highs on Friday, as earnings optimism faded a bit and a volcanic ash cloud disrupted air travel for a second day. The Stoxx Europe 600 index declined 0.3% to 271.36 following two sessions of gains. Earnings from companies such as Intel helped shares to gain early in the week but Google and AMD shares slipped in after-hours trading late Thursday after reporting results. European technology shares were weak on Friday, with ASM International shares down 1.8%. Shares of Nokia (NOK), which is due to report results next week, lost 1.3%. Ericsson (ERICY) shares edged up 0.1% as Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications said it swung to a first-quarter profit. Airlines were also struggling, with SAS down 1.6%, Deutsche Lufthansa shares down 1.5% and Air France-KLM shares down 1.7% as a volcanic ash cloud moving over Europe from Iceland continued to halt traffic. The U.K. FTSE 100 index lost 0.2% to 5,816.10, the German DAX index declined 0.2% to 6,276.28 and the French CAC-40 index traded down 0.2% at 4,056.87. Losses from technology stocks also pressured shares in Asian trading, while U.S. stock futures were pointing to mild losses on Wall Street, with Dow Jones Industrial Average futures down 30 points. General Electric and Bank of America are set to report Friday. The euro (CUR_EURUSD) declined 0.4% to $1.3526 against the dollar, with Greece's fiscal deficit problems still a concern, while sterling (CUR_GBPUSD) lost 0.5% to $1.5400 after an opinion poll gave Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg victory in last night's televised debate. Notable gainers in Europe included French supermarket giant Carrefour , which climbed 3.4% after it posted a 5.5% increase in first-quarter revenue to 23.96 billion euros and said that it will buy back up to 6% of its shares. Latin American growth of 9.6% and Asian growth of 1.6% helped offset a 0.6% downturn in France and a 2.4% drop from Europe ex-France, the firm said. "Carrefour's first quarter was encouraging, with end demand beginning to stabilize across G4 markets," said James Grzinic, an analyst at Jefferies. Shares of Swedish industrial group SKF jumped 7.5%. It brought the announcement of its "well ahead of market estimates" first-quarter results forward after pretax profit jumped to 1.5 billion Swedish kroner, from 531 kroner last year, as sales at its automotive business improved. -Sarah Turner; 415-439-6400;

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