European shares inch lower after soft Chinese data

PARIS Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:14am EST

PARIS Jan 23 (Reuters) - European shares dipped early on Thursday, tracking losses in Asia after softer-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data fuelled concerns over the pace of growth in the world's second-biggest economy.

At 0812 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,345.86 points, hovering below a 5-1/2 year high hit earlier this week.

The flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to 49.6 in January, from December's 50.5, suggesting that activity in China's factory sector contracted for the first time in six months.

French stocks bucked the trend however, with the CAC 40 rising 0.1 percent, lifted by data showing French business activity shrank less than expected in January.

Markit's index for the services sector rose to 48.6 from 47.8 in December, beating economists' average expectation of an increase to only 48.1.

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