European shares stumble at multi-month peaks

Tue Dec 4, 2012 12:58pm EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, off 17-month highs

* Euro STOXX 50 up 0.3 pct, eyeing technical resistance

* Growth stocks ripe for outperformance - Natixis

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - European equity indexes closed off multi-month highs on Tuesday, possibly pausing before a renewed challenge on technical resistance levels into the year-end.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed flat at 1,121.25 points, failing to hold on to a 17-month intra-day high of 1,125.79 after Wall Street opened lower.

The EuroSTOXX 50 index of euro zone blue chips finished 0.3 percent higher at 2,590.83 points, just shy of the March and September peaks and up 7 percent in 12 sessions.

"At the moment it is normal consolidation," said Petra Kerssenbrock, technical analyst at Commerzbank.

"We had a very strong move two weeks which led us up to the resistance in the area 2,600 to 2,611 and that is the resistance that I am really looking at ... We could make a first attempt this week, but I doubt that it would be successful."

Tech stocks were the worst performers on Tuesday, after Goldman Sachs removed German chip maker Infineon from its Pan-Europe Conviction Buy List following strong recent share price performance.

Energy stocks also lagged, as Brent crude oil fell below $110 on concerns about the protracted U.S. budget negotiations to avoid a "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases.

Most investors expect a compromise, although markets are likely to remain on edge until it is reached.

"It is in the interests of nobody - neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans - to see the U.S. slumping into recession again because politicians will be held responsible," said Sylvain Goyon, head of equity market strategy at Natixis.

As long as a solution is found, Goyon expects European equity markets to enjoy a strong year-end, forecasting that the French CAC 40 index could add 4-5 percent more by then.

"Everyone who has missed the summer rally is now tempted, especially with the year-end approaching, to bet on this asset class," he said.

FTSEurofirst 300 has posted gains in 12 out of the last 15 Decembers in a "Santa rally" that strategists explain by investors seeking to boost their profits for the year.

Natixis recommends playing further market gains through "growth" stocks which can increase their earnings even a time of economic stagnation, as seen in Europe.

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