LONDON Dec 13 European shares slipped from
18-month highs on Thursday, led by weakness in heavyweight
healthcare stocks, after uncertainty over U.S. budget talks
prompted investors to cash in on eight-session winning streak.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index
provisionally closed down 0.5 percent at 1,133.89 points, just
off the multi-month high of 1,141.32 points reached earlier this
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index,
meanwhile, fell 0.3 percent to 2,623.30 points.
Investors said a stalemate in talks among U.S. politicians
over reaching a deal to avoid growth-curbing austerity measures,
the so-called "fiscal cliff", was the main reason for the fall
in equity markets.
"The market is very defensive ahead of the fiscal cliff
problems, which will no doubt get sorted but it's a question of
when," said Berkeley Futures associate director Richard
"Any reasonable rally just gets sold into. People are
playing it safe before the year-end," he added.
Healthcare stock AstraZeneca fell 3 percent to take
the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after a clinical
study showed that one of its arthritis treatment drugs was
inferior to that of a rival.