Weaker pharma stocks weigh on European shares

Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:52am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 slips lower for 2nd day in a row

* Weaker chemical stocks weigh on FTSEurofirst 300

* FTSEurofirst 300 and ESTOXX 50 down 0.4 pct

* Use weakness to buy stocks on dip - Psigma Invt Management

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - European shares fell for the second consecutive session on Thursday, dented by weaker pharmaceutical stocks and lingering uncertainty over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will scale back economic stimulus measures.

However, several traders said that while they saw European equity markets making little headway before the Fed's meeting next week, they did expect some recovery towards the end of 2013.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which fell 0.7 percent on Wednesday, declined by 0.4 percent to 1,251.73 points in early morning trading.

A 0.7 percent fall at pharmaceuticals group Roche and a 0.1 percent decline at its rival Novartis took the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300 index, as Barclays equity strategists cited some concerns over overcrowded research pipelines in the sector.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.4 percent to 2,936.27 points while the pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 0.4 percent to 312.03.

Germany's DAX, which has hit record highs this year, fell 0.5 percent to 9,028.25 points. The FTSEurofirst 300 remains up by around 10 percent since the start of 2013 while the DAX is up by around 19 percent.

Darren Courtney-Cook, head of trading at Central Markets Investment Management, said some investors would use uncertainty over the timing of the Fed's expected scaling back of its economic stimulus programme - known as quantitative easing (QE) - to trim back equities in order to book profits on the rally so far.

However, he felt European equity markets would then recover in the final two weeks of December.

"I think this sell-off is just profit-taking. There may be a flurry of nerves going into next week, but after I think we close the year higher," said Courtney-Cook.

RECOVERY AFTER DECEMBER FED MEETING?

Courtney-Cook expected the DAX index to end 2013 in the 9,100-9,200 point range, and the Euro STOXX 50 around the 3,000 level.

Tim Gregory, chief investment officer at Psigma Investment Management, said he would use any weakness in the global equity markets over the coming week to buy up stocks for relatively cheap prices.

"We think there is a chance that Fed tapering will begin next week. However, whether it is December, January or March is less important than the fact that the Fed feels able to make a start on withdrawing QE," said Gregory.

"Equities remain our asset class of choice on a five-year view so we would prefer to adopt a strategy of buying dips over selling rallies," he added.

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