* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.2 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.6 pct
* Spain's GDP data keeps debt crisis in focus
* Good start of earnings season misleading -SocGen's Panseri
* EPFR data shows big outflows from Europe equity funds
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, April 30 (Reuters) - European stocks were lower around midday on Monday, snapping a four-session rally after data showed Spain slipping into recession, focussing investors on concern over the country's ability to deal with its budget deficit.
Losses were limited, however, by investors' appetite for shares seen as safe-haven plays in tougher economic times, with drugmakers AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline up 1.1 percent and 0.6 percent respectively, while France Telecom rose 0.5 percent.
Shares in biotech firm Actelion jumped 19 percent after the company's new lung and heart drug beat expectations in a key clinical trial, giving a much-needed boost to its drug pipeline.
At 1100 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.2 percent at 1,049.96 points, after reversing early gains.
Anheuser-Busch InBev was down 1.8 percent after the world's largest beer maker posted quarterly results that missed forecast.
Adidas surged 5.5 percent to a record high as the sporting goods company raised its 2012 profit forecast, saying sales in China soared 26 percent in the first quarter, helping it to top sales and profit forecasts.
"The big majority of earnings so far have come above forecast, which indicates that Europe is not the world and that companies can find growth elsewhere such as in the United States and emerging countries," Barclays France fund manager Philippe Cohen said.
"It's also a sign that the health of European companies is very different than the health of euro zone states."
Of the 40 percent of STOXX 600 companies that have reported results so far in the earnings season, 58 percent have met or beaten analysts' forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine, a big improvement from last earnings season when about 49 percent of companies managed to meet or beat estimates.
But Societe Generale's equity strategist Claudia Panseri warned that the rising number of better-than-expected corporate results stem from recent cuts in analysts forecasts, rather than an improved outlook for profits.
"European profits deterioration (has been) concealed by consensus management," Panseri wrote in a note.
"The earnings season is underway and first results highlight that the proportion of companies surprising on the upside is higher than in the previous quarter. Unfortunately this is partially due to analysts' downward revisions at the beginning of the year and not to an improving profits environment."
SPAIN IN FOCUS AGAIN
The euro zone debt crisis was back at the front of investors' minds on Monday after data showed Spain's GDP shrank 0.3 percent in January to March on a quarterly basis, beating economists' forecasts but still showing the country slipping into recession.
"Coming on top of record unemployment data last week as well as massive demonstrations against austerity on the streets yesterday, the problems for European leaders continue to mount," Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets, said.
Spain's IBEX fell 0.7 percent, down 17 percent so far in 2012, strongly underperforming the euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index, up 0.5 percent year-to-date, and Germany's DAX, up 15.5 percent.
Thousands protested across Spain on Sunday against cuts aimed at reducing the budget deficit and fixing the economy, crippled by unemployment close to 25 percent.
Around Europe on Monday, UK's FTSE 100 index was down 0.4 percent, France's CAC 40 down 0.7 percent, while Germany's DAX index was up 0.2 percent.
The STOXX 50 index was down 0.7 percent at 2,328.71 points, retreating after running into strong resistance on its 200-day moving average, at 2,348.58 points.
Charts also show the broad FTSEurofirst 300 index hitting resistance early in the session on the 38.2 percent Fibonacci retracement of the index's pullback from mid-March to late April, at 1,053.23 points, before reversing gains and turning negative.
Data from EPFR Global for last week showed outflows from European equities totaling $4.6 billion - the biggest evacuation since the week ending August 10 - fuelled by the collapse of the Dutch government and French socialist candidate Francois Hollande's victory in the first round of presidential elections, seen as blows to the consensus that austerity is key to resolving the region's debt crisis.
The EPFR Global data also shows small contrarian flows into Spain, Italy, Greece and Netherlands equity funds, suggesting that some bargain hunters believe the region will manage to resolve the three-year-old crisis.