European shares retreat, hurt by weak economic data
* FTSEurofirst 300 dips 0.4 pct, EuroSTOXX 50 down 0.9 pct * Euro zone GDP, ECB comments weigh on sentiment * Charts show room for more weakness By Toni Vorobyova LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday, with data showing a deeper-than-expected euro zone recession and signals the ECB is reluctant to rein in the euro hurting sentiment. The euro zone economy shrank 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, knocking investor confidence in the region's ability to recover this year. With domestic demand weak, European companies have been looking abroad for profit growth, but that is now starting to be eroded by the strong euro exchange rate. Any expectation of intervention from the European Central Bank were dampened on Thursday, when Vice President Vitor Constancio said exchange rates should be set by markets. "Basically what (he is) saying is that the ECB still remains reluctant to manipulate the euro lower, which suggests to me that the economic data is going to continue to deteriorate," Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets, said. The EuroSTOXX 50 fell 0.9 percent to 2,633.53 points by 1133 GMT, and technical charts pointed to more weakness. "If this is an ordinary correction the market should fall to 2,509, if not 2,412/27, ... but such a move will also strongly advocate a more profound correction or even a full-blown turnaround," analysts at SEB said in a note. The broader FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.4 percent at 1,161.19 points, giving up tentative early morning gains after the euro zone data and Constancio's comments. Heavyweight Nestle was the biggest drag on the pan-European index, after the food giant warned of a challenging year ahead, sending its shares down 2.5 percent. Overall, though, Thursday's crop of corporate reports had a positive tint, with international sales boosting bottom lines. Dutch staffing firm Randstad and Swiss engineering group ABB both beat earnings' forecasts, helped by growth in Asia and Latin America. Shares in Randstad and ABB were both up nearly 5 percent. French spirits group Pernod enjoyed solid growth in the United States while French car maker Renault pledged to increase full-year sales on the back of rising demand outside Europe, sending its shares up 6.7 percent. Pernod shares were 1.8 percent higher. "The global macro outlook has been a bit more encouraging, if you look at the results today you can see companies like Pernod, which are very global, doing very well," said James Buckley, head of European equities at Barings Asset Management. To-date, 59 percent of STOXX Europe 600 companies that have already reported results have met or beaten full-year earnings expectations, compared to 71 percent of their U.S. peers, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.
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