By Kit Rees
LONDON (Reuters) - European shares nudged higher on Monday, though trading was characterized by thin volumes as a busy few weeks of earnings reports from top regional and U.S. firms gets underway.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.2 percent to touch a three-week high, while the blue chips struggled and turned negative to trade 0.2 percent lower.
Last week, European indices enjoyed their strongest week in more than two months as investors quickly bought the dip spurred by central banks turning slightly hawkish.
Second-quarter results season kicked off in the U.S. last Friday with numbers from Citigroup and JPMorgan.
Analysts are expecting earnings to grow 9 percent year-on-year for European firms, compared with 8 percent for the U.S., according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
British engineer Weir Group was the biggest STOXX riser, surging nearly 10 percent after increasing its forecasts for its oil and gas units, thanks to strong North American drilling activity.
"The extent of the Oil & Gas upgrades are significant, obviously, and shows how volatile this end market can be. This time, it's going in the group's favor, and they are very much benefiting from it," analysts at Jefferies said in a note.
Updates from some Nordic firms spurred some sizeable moves too, with shares in Norway's Telenor jumping more than 8 percent. The telecoms firm raised its outlook for 2017 earnings margins after its operating results beat expectations.
On the downside, shares in Swedish medical technology firm Getinge dropped 7.2 percent after its second quarter core profits lagged forecasts.
While the majority of sectors were in positive territory, basic resources were the biggest gainers, up 1.3 percent with miners Anglo American, Glencore and Antofagasta leading the charge higher after the price of copper hit a three-and-a-half month high following strong Chinese GDP figures, the world's biggest consumer of metals. [MET/L]
Volatile trading continued for trouble UK midcap construction services firm Carillion which appointed EY to help with its strategic review. The stock, which has lost two-third of its value over the past week, rose 14.5 percent.
Analysts pointed to the news that Carillion had been named as one of the firms to work on building a new high-speed rail network in Britain, along with Balfour Beatty whose shares gained 3.4 percent.
"It is very reassuring to see that the government is still comfortable awarding (Carillion) contracts, so that's definitely a good thing," Rachel Winter, senior investment manager at Killik & Co, said.
"There are still some major concerns around the company, and for me the main one is the pension deficit. At the moment the size of the pension deficit is about three times the market cap of the company," Killik's Winter added.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Vikram Subhedar and Raissa Kasolowsky)