European shares fall after Fed minutes spook markets
* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.6 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.9 pct
* Financials fall as Fed signal tapering to begin within months
* Miners retreat on weak China data
* Sodexo, EADS, Antofagasta weighed on by broker comment
By David Brett
LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - European shares fell on Thursday, led by financials, after the Federal Reserve signalled it may start withdrawing its monetary stimulus in the next few months. Weak data from China aggravated the decline.
Minutes of the Fed's Oct. 29-30 policy meeting showed bank officials felt they could start scaling back the asset-purchase programme at one of its next few meetings if economic conditions warranted it.
"Talk of tapering is coming back into the markets, so the recent consolidation in the markets may be expected to continue at least until the Fed meeting next month," Jawaid Afsar, sales trader at SecurEquity, said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 8.07 points, or 0.6 percent, at 1289.31, by 0824 GMT, echoing Wall Street, which reversed course after the Fed minutes on Wednesday.
The loose monetary policy adopted by central banks globally has fed the rally in equities -- European shares are up around 13 percent in 2013 -- and eroded returns from other asset classes such as bonds and cash.
Banks, those most acutely exposed to the benefits of monetary stimulus, fell 0.7 percent.
Miners, however, declined the most, falling 1 percent. The sector was also dragged down by data that showed activity in China's vast factory sector grew more slowly in November as new export orders shrank.
Autos, which also have large exposure in China, fell 0.7 percent.
European stocks have rallied in the past five months, with the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index surging 22 percent and hitting five-year highs. Better macro data as well as the liquidity pumped in by central banks fuelled the rally.
The advance has lost steam in the past two weeks, however. Mixed company results and concern over the end of the Fed's quantitative easing blunted investor appetite for risky assets.
The pullback has been halted by the first Fibonacci retracement of the gains that began in August, at 3,015.72. That remains the first big support level, followed by the 38.2 percent retracement at 2,959.47.
Among the individual movers, broker recommendations accounted for most of the main losers.
Sodexo topped the list of those declining in Europe. It shed 2.5 percent after Citigroup cut its rating on the services firm to "neutral" on valuation grounds.
The U.S. investment bank also cut its rating to "neutral" on insurer Allianz, which fell 2.4 percent.
European aeronautics group EADS fell 2 percent as UBS took the company off its key call list on valuation grounds. The investment bank also downgraded miner Antofagasta to "neutral" from "buy," citing concern over its outlook for copper and cost headwinds. Antofagasta dropped 2 percent.
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