Schneider hit by downgrade as European shares edge lower

Thu Oct 3, 2013 10:33am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 dips 0.2 pct, Euro STOXX 50 falls 0.4 pct

* Schneider hit by Exane BNP Paribas downgrade

* U.S debt issues weigh on market in near-term

* Most investors see October equity dip as short-lived

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - European shares edged lower on Thursday, with Schneider Electric hit by a broker downgrade, as uncertainty over the resolution of the United States' debt issues dented equities.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.4 percent to 2,905.81 points, while the broader pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index dipped 0.2 percent to 1,244.56 points.

A 3.4 percent fall at Schneider took the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300 index, as Exane BNP Paribas's downgrade on the stock to "neutral" from "outperform" hit Schneider's shares.

The FTSEurofirst 300 hit a fresh 5-year high of 1,274.59 points in late September while the Euro STOXX 50 hit a 2-year high of 2,955.47 points.

Both markets have risen around 10 percent since the start of 2013 but have slipped back in October after the U.S. government had to partially shutdown this week due to disagreement among politicians over the country's budget, which in turn has led to uncertainty over the U.S. debt ceiling.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the United States will exhaust its $16.7 trillion borrowing authority no later than Oct. 17.

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management, expected ongoing uncertainty over the U.S. debt situation to weigh on markets this month.

He sold a position on Germany's DAX, which was down 0.2 percent at 8,616.72 points, at 8,634 points on Thursday.

"I've been trading the range, buying the dip and selling the top, but I'm looking to leave myself positioned 'short'," he said.

Others were more positive on a longer timeframe, arguing that in the past the United States had always managed to reach last-minute solutions to raise its debt ceiling and that signs of a global economic recovery would continue to lift equities.

Economic data on Thursday showed that a return to growth last month for French and Italian companies, along with growth in Britain and Germany.

Threadneedle Investments chief investment officer Mark Burgess said his firm had raised its position on European equities to "neutral" from "underweight".

Goldman Sachs economics analyst Noah Weisberger also felt any equity market dip caused by the U.S debt situation would be relatively short-lived.

"The current data, our forward views and a simple look back at past government shutdowns all suggest that current concerns will likely be short-lived," he said.

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