LONDON, March 7 European shares ended slightly
lower on Thursday, held back by a post-results slump for British
insurer Aviva, and some said they expected the pullback
to continue in the short term.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index, which hit a 4-1/2 year
intraday high of 1,193.35 points on Wednesday, provisionally
closed down 0.1 percent at 1,185.26 points.
The main focus was on the European Central Bank which left
its benchmark interest rate unchanged, as was widely expected,
and offered no hints about monetary policy easing in the months
While the index saw no clear reaction to the decision, it
pared back gains during the press conference when ECB President
Mario Draghi was non-committal when asked whether he felt equity
markets were fairly priced at current levels.
"It certainly wouldn't be surprising to us if we were to see
a pull-back in equities, at least in the short-term," Henk
Potts, market strategist at Barclays, said.
"But in saying that fundamentals remain very supportive
indeed, therefore we'd encourage investors to continue to use
any weakness to increase their exposure to an asset class that's
likely to outperform, at least in the medium to long term."
Aviva's shares slid 12.9 percent, one of the biggest
drags on the FTSEurofirst 300 index, after it slashed its 2012
dividend by more than a quarter to repay debt.