European shares slip on widening Ukraine tensions

Fri Mar 7, 2014 4:27am EST

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.6 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.6 pct

* Stocks with big exposure to Russia under renewed pressure

* U.S. investors continue to pour money into Europe -Lipper

By Blaise Robinson

PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - European shares slipped in early trade on Friday as investors were wary of the risks of another escalation in tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the weekend.

Shares of companies most exposed to Russia were among the biggest losers. Investors also avoided taking fresh bets ahead of U.S. jobs data due later in the day that will provide insight on the state of the world's biggest economy and could influence the Federal Reserve's policy outlook.

At 0847 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.6 percent at 1,336.63 points. After taking a hit on Monday, the index reversed most of the selloff that was sparked by an escalation in tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

"Stocks have been yo-yoing this week, and indexes are back to near multi-year high levels, so it's tempting to cash in a bit of profits in case things flare up again in Ukraine during the weekend," Saxo Bank trader Andrea Tueni said.

After diplomatic efforts to cool the crisis in Ukraine calmed markets over the past few days, tensions were rising again, with U.S. President Barack Obama unveiling sanctions against Russia, ordering visa bans and asset freezes against so far unidentified persons deemed responsible for threatening Ukraine's sovereignty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuffed the warning from Obama on Friday, saying that Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Shares in European blue chips with the biggest exposure to Russia featured among the biggest losers on Friday, with Finnish tyre maker Nokian Renkaat down 1.8 percent, Danish brewer Carlsberg losing 1.2 percent and Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank International shedding 2 percent.

The three companies derive 26 percent, 17 percent and 22 percent respectively of their overall revenues from Russia, according to data from MSCI.

Investors were also reluctant to make fresh bets ahead of U.S. monthly jobs data.

Non-farm payrolls are forecast to have risen by 149,000 in February, up from the weather-depressed gains of 113,000 in January. Analysts said expectations may have been lowered by the soft ADP private-sector jobs report and ISM services sector survey released earlier this week.

"A disappointing number will be neglected by investors as February was still adversely impacted by winter weather," said Ruland Research analyst Heino Ruland.

"In the near term, I am quite bullish for equities. It becomes clearer by the day that growth resumed in the euro area, even though below potential growth, which means that interest rates will begin rising but stay comparatively low, thereby increasing the relative attractiveness of equity valuations."

Despite Monday's selloff in stocks triggered by the escalation in the Ukraine crisis, U.S. investors' appetite for European stocks remained brisk.

A poll by Thomson Reuters Lipper of 103 U.S.-based funds invested in European equities, which include exchange-traded funds' (ETFs) holdings, shows the funds added $468 million into European equities in the seven-day period to March 5th. That marked a 36th straight week of net inflows and a sharp contrast with further big outflows from emerging markets funds.

Europe bourses in 2014:

Asset performance in 2014:

Today's European research round-up

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