European shares edge lower, led down by Richemont
* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.1 percent
* Richemont the top European faller on China weakness
* FTSEurofirst 1 percent away from five-year highs
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - European shares gave up early gains on Thursday, led lower by a sales update from Swiss luxury goods group Richemont and by data giving a weaker-than-expected view of the euro zone economy.
Richemont fell 3.5 percent after five-month sales missed expectations, with the company reporting weak demand for its high-end watches in mainland China.
"The luxury sector has not been too bad recently, but it's unfortunate to see this weakness in the China market, which hitherto has been so strong," Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG, said.
"A clampdown on officials' gifting policies - (a practice) that has been so prevalent in the upper echelons of the Chinese government - won't help Richemont."
After starting the session on a stronger footing, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 traded down 0.3 percent, after industrial production in the euro zone fell 1.5 percent in July, compared with a 0.1 percent increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll.
At 1040 GMT, the index was down 0.1 percent at 1,246.32.
Despite the industrial data, expectations that growth is returning are helping European equities. The Euro STOXX 50 set a two-year high on Wednesday, before dropping 0.3 percent on Thursday.
The FTSEurofirst 300 is just 0.9 percent away from May's five-year high, and is up 4.1 percent over the last two weeks, helped by hopes of growth and a calming of international tension over Syria.
The United States and Russia are set to meet in Geneva on Thursday to discuss the best way to remove Syria's chemical weapons.
Lucas Roux de Luze, sales trader at TJM Partners, said the market focus was now on developments in Syria and an expected scaling back of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monthly bond-buying programme next week.
Roux de Luze said the market was pricing in between $10 billion to $15 billion of tapering, and that stocks could rise if the figure was lower or tapering was delayed.
"Even if the Fed is tapering, it's a sign of growth, and we want the growth," he said.
"Most people want to be bullish."