European shares drop as German data darkens mood
* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.5 pct, weighed by autos * German PMI survey deals blow to market * Lanxess slides, predicts drop in Q1 profit By Tricia Wright LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday as disappointing German data made investors already nervous about Cyprus's debt crisis wary, though some analysts expected losses to be short-lived. Autos, sensitive to market nervousness, fell sharply, as did German synthetic-rubber maker Lanxess which joined the list of auto suppliers to take a hit from anaemic European car markets. Shares in Lanxess tumbled more than 7 percent to a seven-month low, leading the market down, after the company warned of a sharp drop in earnings in the first quarter. The German data, which suggested Europe's largest economy would eke out meagre growth this quarter, outweighed a pickup in Chinese factory activity and a commitment by the U.S. Federal Reserve towards its stimulus programme. The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 0.5 percent at 1,193.27 by 1139 GMT, having risen 0.3 percent on Wednesday. The FTSEurofirst 300, with a 0.8 percent fall so far this week, could be heading for its biggest weekly loss since November. Traders, however, said that Friday's German March Ifo business climate data could well light a spark under the market. "If we get a good Ifo tomorrow suddenly equity markets will bounce back. It's very, very short term (the weakness)," Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets, said. "At the moment the markets are a little bit surprised and there's a little bit of profit taking after the gains that we saw yesterday." Cyprus's crisis preyed on investor sentiment, with the island's government endeavouring to avert a financial meltdown and ordering banks to stay shut until next week, after the debt-stricken country rejected the terms of a European Union bailout. Strong macro data from China, showing a pickup in growth in the country's vast manufacturing sector, and a statement from the Fed, which said it would stick to its $85 billion monthly bond-buying stimulus, helped keep a floor under losses. Some investors remained relatively unfazed about the situation in Cyprus. "I think (Cyprus) is very much just a stumbling block and nothing else. I really don't think it's going to stop the market and I don't see a big selloff on the back of it at all," said Terry Torrison, managing director at Monaco-based McLaren Securities. CHARTS GLOOMY The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was 0.7 percent weaker at 2,689.78. It has seen choppy trading throughout the course of this week when it traded within a 50-point range. Some technical analysts are bearish. Barclays Capital analyst Lynnden Branigan said that as long as the index is capped below 2,712, a high hit earlier in the week, there is risk in the short term for the index to slip. Crossing below the support at 2,660 (Tuesday's low) could send the index to the next target of 2,625 (around the 100-day moving average), and potentially to 2,590 before stabilising, he said. Nicolas Suiffet, a technical analyst at Trading Central in Paris, concurred, viewing 2,625 as the next target should the index breach 2,660.